Postcards from Pebble Beach; high marks for Felicia Sauceda

Published 9:25 pm Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I love getting postcards.  That’s a little bit of a problem these days because not too many people send postcards anymore. 

    Instant messages “tweeted” and cell phone camera shots sent straight to Facebook, are now the cool way to say “wish you were here”.  While I am quite adept at using a cell phone for calls, my kids usually have to tutor me through taking pictures and sending text messages. 

    So, while traveling to Pebble Beach over the Labor Day weekend to join the Felicia Sauceda gallery as she played alongside the Champions Tour professionals in The First Tee Open, I had planned to pick up a few postcards to send or keep as souvenirs. 

    What I didn’t realize at the time was that the best postcards I would end up collecting were not sold in the Pebble Beach proshop.  They were the ones I would store in my mind while sharing this experience with Felicia and her family.  It is my pleasure to try to share a few of them with you now.

Is Pebble Beach in Texas?

    On Saturday morning, Felicia had an 8:25 tee time at Pebble Beach, so I arrived at the driving range early to watch the pros and juniors practice.  I had not yet joined up with Felicia’s family and did not know that she had elected to forgo the driving range that morning in exchange for some extended practice time on the putting green. 

    As I walked up to the range tee, the air was a crisp and cool 52 degrees and there was a light mist falling.  The access to the players was amazing.  I got to walk up and watch the players hit balls, shake their hands and have short conversations with them and their caddies.  It dawned on me that quite a few of the people I saw had a Texas connection.

    Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, J.L. Lewis, Fred Couples along with juniors from Midlothian, Dallas, Houston and Austin.  Just before heading over to the golf course, I also got to spend a few minutes visiting with Bruce Lietzke and he told me to tell Felicia good luck and to tell all his friends and fans back in the Golden Triangle, that he’d see them real soon. 

Calming first hole jitters.

    One of the coolest moments of the weekend was listening to the tournament starter announce the players and hearing him announce “from Nederland, Texas…Felicia Sauceda”.  According to her parents, Felicia had been very nervous the day before at Del  Monte for about the first 4 or 5 holes but then settled down and played some good golf. 

    So it came as no surprise that Felicia was nervous as she teed it up on the first hole at the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links in a Champions Tour event.  Felicia launched her initial tee shot but lost it to the right a little and her golf ball came to rest under a stand of trees in the rough. 

    For her second shot, she chose to punch a middle iron back toward the fairway in front of the green.  Still nervous, she pulled the shot just enough to run it through the fairway into the left side-hill rough which also sloped toward the green.  Did I mention that there was a bunker on the left front of the green?  Her third shot had bunker written all over it.  Or, hot wedge running past the flag and over the back of the green into the spinach.

     Or worse. 

    So how does one settle the first hole jitters?  Felicia chipped the ball cleanly, landing the ball just over the bunker and into the front green slope and then we all watched as the ball rolled out toward the back pin location, finishing just about a foot away.  Routine par.

Pebble Beach doesn’t like it when you hit it too well.

    Throughout the morning and through hole 14, Felicia hit some awesome shots.  She hit some huge tee balls, some solid iron shots and sunk some key putts.  Pebble Beach took offense, I think. 

    Playing her practice round in the fog 2 days prior, did not allow Felicia to get a good feel for the proper line of

play.  Several times she missed the perfect line by just inches.  A familiar sight was Felicia playing a mid-iron to the center of the green and then watching the ball run through to the back of the green into the back fringe.

     The greens were very firm and Felicia could not spin the ball enough to take the run out but she never gave up and was able to get up and down for par on several occasions.  Oh yeah, all this golf was going on while the sun was shining, the Pacific Ocean breeze was howling, sail boats were sailing and the seals were swimming. 

Finishing at Pebble Beach – an adventure.

    On the 15th hole, Felicia pulled her tee shot into a bunker in the left rough. Her second shot came to rest in the left center of the fairway.  Unfortunately, they recently added a pot bunker in the left center of the fairway. 

    Although she was fit to be tied, the moment provided one of the more amusing and memorable scenes of the day.  Felicia, walking down into the pot bunker and then jumping, trying to see the green.  From outside the ropes, all you could see was the top of her head at the top of her jumps.  She salvaged a bogey but the 15th hole really took the wind out of Felicia’s sails for the final few holes. 

    After gutting out a par on the famous, ocean-bound 17th, the 18th revealed perhaps the best postcard moment of the day. Felicia smoked a drive down the left side of the fairway but turned the ball over a little too much.  Her ball came to rest dangerously close to the retaining wall and Felicia had to stand on the edge of the wall a try to advance the ball back to the fairway. 

    Her pro and her amateur playing partners were so concerned for her safety that they decided one of them should step down onto the rocks below the wall and position themselves to catch her, just in case she lost her balance.  She didn’t, and made a nice out, back to the fairway.  She finished in style a few shots later, draining a 6-footer for her final stroke at Pebble Beach.

“The Licia-nator”

    The format for The First Tee Open called for a cut after 36 holes.  Only the top 22 juniors would play Pebble Beach again on Sunday.  The remaining 56 juniors would be paired with another junior player and 2 amateurs and play in the Core Values Cup Scramble at Del Monte. 

    Felicia started the day on the driving range sandwiched between Bruce Lietzke and Ben Crenshaw.  She exchanged

good luck wishes with Lietzke and then was off to Del Monte where she was paired with the Louisiana High School State Champion and Louisiana Junior Amateur Champion, Chuck Spears…a member of The First Tee of Central Louisiana. 

    This kid can flat out play, but before the end of the round, Chuck and the two amateur partners were reminded very often who the A-Player was in their group. Felicia bombed her drives, straight and far most of the round and the team

used her iron shots, chips and putts all day long. 

    Felicia’s performance was so solid that Spears gave her the nickname “The Licia-nator”.  The team went 13 under, over the last 15 holes to finish 5th with a 59.

    In the end, I did pick up a few postcards from the Pebble Beach proshop.  The standard souvenir cards with stock images of holes 6, 7, 17 and 18. But they will only serve to remind me of the many postcard moments I got to share with Felicia and the Sauceda family gallery at The First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.

     As a community, you should all be very proud of Felicia and the way she represented The First Tee and the Golden Triangle. I only wish you could have been there to collect some postcards of your own.   

    For more information about The First Tee of the Golden Triangle, contact Jerry Honza at 719-3949 or via email at jhonz@pga.com.

    Jerry Honza is the PGA Executive Director of the First Tee of the Golden Triangle