, Port Arthur, Texas


June 12, 2012

First Tee, Zaharias Foundation make great partners

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.

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