BOB WEST ON GOLF: Local First Tee chapter dissolving

Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The First Tee of the Golden Triangle, a fixture in Southeast Texas since 2004, is about to dissolve, due to a belt tightening at the YMCA of Port Arthur.

That doesn’t mean many of the programs offered to juniors are going away, but those programs will apparently no longer be under the umbrella of a First Tee Chapter.

Jerry Honza, the long time Executive Director of the First Tee of the Golden Triangle, was informed his job has been eliminated. Honza, as you will read later in the column, plans to stay active with junior golfers and area golf professionals.

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The YMCA’s contract with the First Tee ends today. Port Arthur YMCA President/CEO Bud Oliver said the organization had come to the agreement that it just didn’t have the demographics to warrant continuing the chapter in its current form.

“We have had to do a reduction in force,” said Oliver. “We are pinching pennies. Last year was a tough year. At this point, I don’t see us being a chapter anymore. But we still want to be involved in the school and community aspect. We want to continue to work with First Tee and offer the program however we can.”
Honza’s thoughts are presented below in an open-letter format:

Dear Champions for Youth!

Every great adventure has some twists and turns along the way.  One sunrise reveals something exciting and wonderful and another, something unexpected.

Back in 2004, something wonderful happened for golf and youth development in our area, when the late Henry Durham worked diligently to make the local chapter of The First Tee a reality.

Fast forward to last week, when the local YMCA, the license agreement holder for the Golden Triangle chapter of The First Tee, announced that “chapter activities, such as regular classes at golf courses, will no longer continue.”

While I am disappointed, I would like to publicly thank the YMCA of Port Arthur for joining Henry Durham and his foundation members, the city of Port Arthur, Aquila Golf, area golf professionals and facilities and many, many donors and volunteers, in making The First Tee of the Golden Triangle a reality, and for their support over these last 11 years.

The First Tee will remain active in the area through its National School Program agreements with PAISD and PN-GISD, and is open to expanding into other area school districts. Additionally, the organization is exploring opportunities to launch after-school and curriculum provider programs in the area.

So what now? I have spoken to most of the area golf professionals and each plans to continue offering junior golf programs at their facilities this spring and summer. Junior Golf in our area will always need donors and volunteers to help support the effort, so if you have supported Junior Golf and Youth Development programs in the past, “thank you.”

Please continue your support. Watch this space in the coming weeks to find out about all the junior golf opportunities coming up in 2016 and about ways you can get involved as a participant, donor or volunteer.

There were junior golfers and junior golf programs in the area long before The First Tee and there are, and will be, junior golfers and junior golf programs long into the future. When the sun comes up tomorrow, it’s going to be an exciting new day.  Let the Junior Golf adventure continue.

— Jerry J. Honza Jr., PGA

A double eagle — albatross if you prefer — and a hole-in-one had players buzzing after the Monday Senior 50 Plus Game at Babe Zaharias.
Tommy Prejean of Port Neches bagged the albatross, sinking a 4-hybrid from 180 yards on the 463-yard, par-5, third hole. It was his first ever double eagle.
Witnesses were Bob Wactor, Larry Vicknair and Bob Frazier. …

Bob West authored the hole-in-one, his third, on the 117-yard, par-3 second hole. West, hitting into a strong wind, used a 7-iron. Witnesses were Don MacNeil, Bob Moore and Charles Huckaby. …

Format for the Senior 50 Plus Game was two best balls. The team of Larry Thompson, Harrell Guidry, Roland Burris and Paul Duplantis, tied for first on both sides, posting 2-under. Matching that on the
front was the foursome of Craig Fontenot, Tony Trevino, Ron Mistrot and Paul Brown. Also 2-under on the back was the team of Benny Sharpe, Larry Stansbury, Dennis Frazier and Tommy Lemire. …

Only other local activity during the rain-filled past week was the Super Saturday Game at The Babe. Playing in a best two-ball format, the team of Paul Flores, Joe Gongora, Larry Johnson and a ghost player won the front in minus-1. On the back the foursome of Adam Noel, Cap Hollier, John Williams and Mike Hollier placed first with minus-2. …

Port Neches-Groves ex Braden Bailey followed up last week’s career best seventh-place finish for Baylor in the Quarencia Cabo Collegiate with an eighth-place tie this past Friday and Saturday in the Border Olympics at Laredo Country Club. Bailey shot rounds of 71-69 to help the Bears win their first tournament of 2016. On the way to his closing 69, Bailey rebounded to shoot 3-under after going 3-over early in the round. His freshman-season stroke average is now an impressive 72.4 in 20
tournament rounds. …

Former Lamar All-American Chris Stroud, after missing his seventh cut in past nine starts, will be idle this week while the Arnold Palmer Invitational is being played at Bay Hill in Orlando, Florida. Neither of the other LU exes on the tour — Shawn Stefani and Dawie van der Walt — is playing at Bay Hill. …

The Tour resumes this week with the Louisiana Open. Both West Orange-Stark ex Michael Arnaud and former Kelly star Anthony Broussard are in the field.

Golfers interested in participating in the Nederland Heritage Festival Two-Person scramble Saturday at Babe Zaharias are reminded the deadline for entries is Thursday at 5 p.m.

Teams will be flighted by handicap. There will be a flight for players using the senior tees. Entry fee is $50 for an 8 a.m. shotgun start.

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