First Tee Roanoke Valley Helps Kick Off Youth Day At Greenbrier Classic

First Tee members from Roanoke and West Virginia get the thumbs up before Tuesday’s First Tee Scramble $10,000 3-hole shootout on the Old White TPC.

Tuesday at the PGA TOUR Greenbrier Classic has the longstanding tradition of being Youth Day, with several events throughout the day centered around tomorrow’s stars.

First Tee Roanoke Valley was again in the center of the mix, from joining in on a putting challenge and a junior clinic with PGA professionals Chris Stroud, Steve Wheatcroft and Brian Campbell to winning the annual First Tee Scramble.

As in prior years, First Tee West Virginia was the other participating chapter that helped fill the popular event while the pros showed off their amazing talents and interacted with the kids.

The Youth Day activities had started off with a special “All-American” buffet on this, America’s birthday. First Tee members were able to show off their putting skills on a special mini-golf layout before hearing from The Greenbrier’s Golf Professional Emeritus, Lee Trevino.

While the Youth Day activities were going on, a special luncheon was also held at the Greenbrier Resort.

Emceed by CBS Golf Analyst Jim Nantz, along with special guests Bubba and Angie Watson, the Neighbors Loving Neighbors tribute was held to honor first responders and flood victims that were the ones who were in everyone’s thoughts and prayers after the devastating flooding that took 23 lives, wrecked widespread damage to southern West Virginia and led to the cancellation of the 2016 Classic.

“You know, it’s weird to say, but this is a celebration,” Bubba Watson noted. “This is a celebration of some hard-working people of the state of West Virginia. Neighbors Loving Neighbors, that’s what the true definition we should all be doing. Not just in West Virginia, but everywhere in the world. We should love all people and help all people.”

There’s plenty of reflection by virtually every pro this year at The Greenbrier.

“Playing golf this week is about excitement,” Bubba Watson added. “When you see fans out there you don’t know if that fan is from here or came from out of state. You don’t know if that was a volunteer that helped out in times of need. All you do know is they’re here supporting West Virginia, supporting a great event at The Greenbrier. So, yeah, the golf is way down the list of what this event really, truly means in this state and in this town.”

Back on the course, the Polo Youth Scramble, a three-hole shootout with a nifty $10,000 prize going to the two First Tee chapters was unfolding on The Old White TPC.

Selected to represent the two chapters were Alex Kagan and Mary Denny for First Tee Werst Virginia, with John Hatcher Ferguson (Franklin County High School) and Andrew Withers (Hidden Valley) representing First Tee Roanoke Valley.

Professional golfers Jonathan Byrd (paired with First Tee Roanoke players) and Davis Love III rounded out the field. Byrd and Love played from the tees that will be played by the pros in The Classic. The juniors got the advantage of moving to the front of the tees.

For the four juniors there was a little bit of nervousness, but a lot of excitement in the fact that they would be inside the ropes with the two pros.

“It was a fabulous day,” First Tee executive director Jennifer Blackwood noted. “We had about a 10 minute rain delay at the Scramble, but the pros were very gracious to the kids during the wait. This year was special because the players’ dads caddied for their child.”

“The clinic this year was held on the Greenbrier Course and it was a hands-on exhibition with inflatable targets. The pros showed the kids how to stand and hold the club. That really appeals to the younger members.”

“We brought about 75 kids and the resort is so welcoming,” Blackwood added. “It’s great to have the opportunity to take our kids to White Sulphur Springs and enjoy The Greenbrier as guests. It’s exciting for everyone to be around these amazing players and see the kids get their autographs and interact. The pros were so gracious with their time.”

Hatcher Ferguson and Withers won the Scramble event with a 1-under par total.

First Tee Roanoke was abuzz with excitement later in the week after it was announced on The Golf Channel that for the first time ever, three of its members, Alisa Marie Carabello, Grace Huffman and John Hatcher Ferguson had all been selected to play in this year’s First Tee Champion Tour Tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links, giving First Tee Roanoke 3 of the 81 spots available nationwide.

On Wednesday, the Greenbrier Classic Pro-Am, popular among fans of all ages looking for autographs, brought out the stars from Duck Dynasty, sports celebrities and politicians. All had to brave the rain which peppered the course for part of the day. Nonetheless, thousands of spectators showed up for the final tuneup.

Things get serious Thursday as the 4-round tournament with a total purse of $7.1 million gets underway. Late additions of Major winners Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson left 11 winners of Major Championships in the 2017 field, including Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, John Daly and Vijay Singh, along with all six previous Greenbrier Classic winners.

There will be live television coverage for Saturday and Sunday on CBS when the Greenbrier green jacket and Springhouse Trophy will go to the winner.

Bill Turner