PORT ARTHUR —
Two significant events which have become intertwined for obvious reasons were front and center last weekend in Beaumont, and to anyone who cares about all the good things that come from the game of golf they produced feel-good moments..
On Friday night, the area’s top young players were honored at the Montagne Center with the Second Annual Babe Zaharias Junior Golf Awards. The awards dinner is a joint effort of The First Tee of the Golden Triangle and the Babe Zaharias Foundation, and the brainchild of First Tee executive director Jerry Honza.
PN-G’s Jarrod Brown (Player of the Year) and Braden Bailey (Leadership Award) were saluted on the boys side and LC-M’s Brooke Brasseaux (Player of the Year) and Silsbee’s Allison Davis (Leadership Award) on the girls side. Overall, there were 12 finalists from eight area high schools.
Each nominee and his/her accomplishments were presented before the winner in the various categories was named. It was a first-class production, with most of the credit going to Honza. You just can’t say enough good things about what Jerry has done to promote and advance The First Tee of the Golden Triangle since being named its executive director.
The awards dinner was his idea and so was forming a partnership of sorts with the Babe Zaharias Foundation, and naming the awards after Babe. Among the many positives has been creating an increased awareness in junior golfers as to who Zaharias was, and of her mind-boggling accomplishments across the sports spectrum.
Another benefit of pairing up with the Zaharias Foundation was getting the involvement of foundation president W.L. Pate Jr. The Beaumont city councilman has taken up where his father, the late W.L. Pate Sr., left off in promoting Zaharias and keeping the foundation on a smooth track.
It was through his efforts that then New York Times investigative reporter Don Van Natta Jr. became interested in Babe and was sold on authoring last year’s terrific book — Wonder Girl. Pate even brought in Van Natta as a guest speaker for the inaugural Junior Golf Awards. Each of the finalists was given a copy of the book.
As for the other significant event of last weekend, it was the 35th annual Babe Didrikson Zaharias golf tournament on Saturday. Started in the late 1970s by W.L. Pate Sr., and kept alive by his son, it’s long been more than just a golf tournament. In addition to the golf, there is a Saturday night dinner at the Holiday Inn on Walden Rd. and a fund-raising sports auction whose proceeds underwrite Babe Zaharias women’s athletic scholarships at Lamar.
Thus far six Zaharias scholarships have been endowed, which is more than any other business or organization has funded for Lamar.
I’m extremely proud to say the last of those six, endowed in 2010, has the name Bob West on it. It’s pretty special for a sports writer to have his name alongside John and Mary Gray, Ben and Julie Rogers, Milton Bell, Thad Johnson and Col. W.L. Pate Sr. on the Zaharias scholarship list.
The sports auction was instituted at my suggestion in the late 1970s and I’ve headed up procuring items for it. More and more tournaments have picked up on that idea over the years, but the sports auction linked to the Zaharias, to the best of my knowledge, was the first in Southeast Texas. It’s become a bigger and bigger challenge over the years to get auction items that will stir bidders, but having successful sports figures from this area really helps.
We’ve had auction donations from the likes of Bum Phillips, Jimmy Johnson, Bruce Lietzke, Jamaal Charles, Larry Tidwell and so many others. Stepping up once again this year were Wade Phillips and Chris Stroud. CBS’ Jim Nantz, isn’t from this area, but he donated an autographed Augusta National pin flag and four tickets to a Houston Texans’ game. Through Pat Knight, we got a personalized, autographed basketball from his dad, Bob Knight.
Bottom line, the junior golf awards and the 35th Babe Zaharias tourney added up to a most rewarding weekend for golf in Southeast Texas.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.