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Hemler has date with historic Pebble Beach

By Bob West
The News Golf Columnist

Karlei Hemler’s summer just keeps getting better.
Shortly after returning from her most memorable golf experience — playing in the First Tee’s inaugural National Par 3 Championship in Richmond, Va., — the PN-G sophomore-to-be learned she’s been accepted as one of 81 junior players in the Nature Valley First Tee Open Sept. 22-28 at Pebble Beach, Calif.
Most anyone who knows anything about golf would include playing the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links on their bucket list. Hemler will get to do it at least twice, including one round in the company of a Champions Tour professional. If Karlei and her pro partner make the 36-hole cut, there would be an additional round at Pebble.
Hemler, who got into the Nature Valley field after being turned down the past two years, told me Monday all she really knows about Pebble Beach is that it’s “beautiful.” To help prepare herself to play a golf course unlike anything she can possibly imagine, she would probably do well to get Nintendo’s Pebble Beach video game and play it on a regular basis.
She would also do well to talk with Braden Bailey and Felicia Sauceda, two of the three previous members of the First Tee of the Golden Triangle to participate in the tournament. Liberty’s Drew Mosely was the third. Nederland’s Sauceda, in fact, was chosen twice before the rules were changed to limit juniors to playing in the tournament one time.
Among the facts about Pebble Beach Hemler needs to know is that year after year it’s rated as one of the world’s top 10 courses, and is often in the top five. She should also know that it’s one of the USGA’s favorite U.S. Open sites and that it has delivered riveting championships and elite champions.
Jack Nicklaus won the first U.S. Open played there in 1972. A decade later, Tom Watson chipped in on the 71st hole to beat Nicklaus. In 1992, Texan Tom Kite was a come-from-behind winner. Then it was Tiger Woods in 2000 shattering all the U.S. Open records in a stunning 15-stroke victory.
The most recent U.S. Open played hard by the Monterey Peninsula saw Graeme McDowell rush past a collapsing Dustin Johnson in 2010 to claim his first major. Pebble Beach’s next chance to host comes in 2019.
One other tidbit Hemler might keep in mind is that she will be getting the chance to tee it up on a golf course that carries one of the world’s highest greens fees. Last time I checked, the going rate was north of $500 and climbing.
Underscoring what a special opportunity Hemler has earned is the fact only 81 juniors representing 54 First Tee chapters across America were accepted from roughly 200 applicants. The process included filling out an application, writing five essays and submitting a letter outlining her golfing accomplishments. She was one of 11 Texans chosen by a screening panel.
Not to be overlooked in all this is the behind-the-scenes efforts of First Tee of the Golden Triangle Executive Director Jerry Honza. Honza has done a terrific job getting the First Tee program established, creating learning and playing opportunities for those who take part and promoting and preparing his juniors for outside events.
As mentioned earlier, Hemler becomes the fourth player from the Golden Triangle chapter to be selected and that came on the heels of Honza helping her gain admission into the National Par 3 Championship.
The format for the Nature Valley First Tee Open calls for Hemler, after a couple of pratice rounds, to play 18 holes of best ball over Pebble Beach and 18 holes at Poppy Hills with a Champions Tour pro and two other amateurs. The field of juniors for an event being televised by the Golf Channel is cut after 36 holes.
CHIP SHOTS: It had to be an awfully disappointing Sunday for PN-G ex Andrew Landry in the Web.com Tour’s Nova Scotia Open. After leading or sharing the lead for 54 holes, Landry shot a one-over-par 72 and dropped all the way to T16. He picked up a check for $8,537, but backed up one spot on the money list to No. 13. Lamar ex Dawie van der Walt finished T36, made $3,018 and held at No. 11 in money. West Orange’s Michael Arnaud, after getting into contention with a second-round 64, stumbled to a 73 on Sunday and finished T43. All three are playing this week in Boise, Idaho . . . It was also another frustrating Sunday for Chris Stroud.. Though he closed with a one-uder 69 in the Greenbrier Classic, Stroud fell to T37 and had to “settle” for $22,851. He did advance eight places from 116 to 108 in Fed Ex points . . . Best tournament showing among area and former Lamar players came from Shawn Stefani. Stefani, after opening with a 69 at the Greenbrier, closed with three consecutive 67s, finished T13 and pocketed $107,844. He’s No. 29 on the Fed Ex list. Both Stefani and Stroud are playing in this week’s John Deere Classic . . . The one area tournament that is always a must play for me is Wildwood’s Old Glory Invitational. Although son Grayson and I weren’t a factor in our flight, we enjoyed the competition and playing 36-holes on a layout that was in remarkably good conditiion considering all the rain that’s fallen in Southeast Texas. What makes the Old Glory truly exceptional is the way so many folks in the Wildwood community contribute their time to assure visiting golfers of a quality experience. Kudos also to head pro Richard Cockrell for his efforts in maintaining the high standards of the Old Glory. Playing a best ball format on Saturday and a scramble Sunday, the team of David Jones-Steve Martin won Championship Flight with a 129. TJ Lingle Braden Riley were second at 131. Other flight winners included Neil Hennigan-Zana Hoffpauir (131 in First Flight), Craig Colbert-J.K. Miller (133 in Second Flight), David Nutt-TommyMcNamara (137 in Third Flight), Scott Slements-Robert Nugent (141 in Fourth Flight), Michael Masey-Chris Rowe (145 in Fifth Flight), Joe Wofford-Marty Nash (159 in Sixth Flight. They needed a scorecard playoff to top JT Greak-Ronnie Keel). Pat O’Connor-Frank Moore won the Senior Flight at 128. Noteworthy was a double eagle 2 on the 503-yard second hole by Andy White-Kevin Jackson in the scramble format . . . The team of Cap Hollier, Bill Jones, Dan Flood and Don Duplan won the Babe Zaharias DogFight with 17 points. Second with 16 points was the team of Raymond Darbonne, Dillard Darbonne, Pete Reobroi and Jim Schnexdier. Closest to the hole winners were Dillard Darbonne (No. 2), Earl Richard (No. 7), Flood (No. 12) and Charlie Huckaby (No. 15) . . . The Senior Game at The Babe was played in a stroke play gross/net format. Placing first with a score of 136 was the team of Richard, Gary Hanan, Charles Leard and Jim Culbertson. Closest to the pin winners were Huckaby (No. 2), Dwayne Morvant (No. 7), Jim Cooper (No. 12) and Rick Pritchett . . . The Super Saturday game at The Babe was played in a 2 ball format with the team of Adam Noel, Hollier and Lee Bertrand winning the front in minus 5. On the back, the team of Pritchett, Price Youngs, Thad Borne and Robert Lynch finished first with minus 4.
Golf news should be faxed to 724-6854 or e-mailed to rdwest@usa.net.

About Gabriel Pruett

Gabriel Pruett has worked with both the Port Arthur News and Orange Leader since 2000. A majority of the time has been spent covering all aspects of Southeast Texas high school sports. Pruett's claim to fame is...being able to write his own biographical information for this website.

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