PEBBLE BEACH – Last year it was a hollow and subdued feeling. At the PURE Insurance Open, not only were the fans missing, but also the teens from the First Tee program, the heart of the tournament.
“With all the uncertainty floating around with the pandemic last year, we didn’t think it was right to fly children to the event,” said Steve John, CEO of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation.
That won’t be the case this year, as 80 selected juniors from the First Tee program – from 22 different states – will spend the weekend living a dream alongside the PGA Tour Champions pros at the 18th PURE Insurance Open compete in Pebble Beach.
“The First Tee uses golf as a platform,” said John, “but it teaches life skills and core values and makes children fit for the future. Golf is just fun. We are happy to have everyone back on campus. ”
The tournament, which is part of the PGA Tour Champions Circuit, will return to its regular format with 81 PGA players, 81 first tee participants and 162 amateurs playing the first round on Friday at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf course.
Spyglass joined the rotation this year, replacing Poppy Hills, which has been part of the event for the past four years.
“From a logistical point of view, it’s just easier,” said John, who competed in the tournament as an amateur from 2005 to 2010. “It’s hard to put into words how exciting it is to have the juniors back in the tournament.”
For two days and 36 holes on two of the most prestigious golf courses in the world, members of the First Tee will play golf and seek the brain of a professional in a unique experience.
“These kids bring in a very different energy,” said John. “You can spend time with professionals and executives from all industries. You can ask any questions you want. You are so incredibly driven. The average GPA is 3.86. ”
With $ 2.1 million in cash at stake for the pros, they seem to enjoy the unique atmosphere as much as the big-eyed teenagers do.
The event is the only one on the tour that includes both first tee players and amateurs. While the pro and the selected junior play together for the first two days, the two amateur players in each group change after the first day.
“The PGA Tour Champions players love this event,” said John. “They try to look after the juniors, to work with them. It is a commitment to the First Tea program. ”
Although neither the juniors nor the fans were there last year, the tournament still raised over $ 1.5 million for the First Tee program.
This week’s PGA Tour Champions debut will be made by Stewart Appleby, who has won 20 Tour titles and was PGA Comeback Player of the Year in 2010.
In addition, Long Drive Champion Eddie Fernandes will make his debut as PGA Tour Champions. Fernandes drove a ball 480 yards with the ball flying over 200 miles per hour.
Defending champion Jim Furyk won’t be back to defend his 2020 title as he is the deputy captain of the upcoming United States Ryder Cup team.
The top 23 pro junior teams and the top 10 amateur teams to make it will grace Pebble Beach once again in Sunday’s finals on NBC.
In addition, two special events will take place on Thursday: the Champions Circle Ryder Cup event at The Hay golf course from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and the Chevron Challenge at 5 p.m. at The Hay.
The Chevron Challenge will include six PGA players and six juniors, including Stevenson Senior Sydney Craven, who was among the 80 First Tee players selected for the event.
“There’s no other PGA tour like it,” said John. “While the players look after the juniors, it’s often a turnaround on Saturday and the pros love it. It’s nice to get back to normal. ”
Spectators are invited to watch the PURE Insurance Championship competition at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Spyglass Hill Golf Course is closed to spectators. No tickets are required to participate. There is no public seating, food or drink in the square, but Pebble Beach restaurants and retail stores are open.