Naples/Collier Again Wins The First Tee Challenge
February 16, 2012
By Mark Williams, PGA TOUR Staff
NAPLES, Fla.—It’s now three wins in four starts for The First Tee of Naples/Collier, whose team was victorious for the third consecutive year in the annual First Tee Challenge on Feb. 14 at The ACE Group Classic. The team of Grace Rokela and Austin Schultz teamed with the Champions Tour’s Loren Roberts to defeat the team of Madison Gilmartin, Daniel Gentilucci, Jr. and pro Jay Sigel, who is from Bryn Mawr, Pa., representing the Philadelphia chapter of The First Tee.
For the fourth consecutive year, The First Tee Challenge brought together members of The First Tee of Naples/Collier and The First Tee of Philadelphia for a match in which each team is paired with a Champions Tour professional. The Challenge took place on holes 10, 11, 17 and 18 at the TwinEagles Club’s Talon Course, the venue for The ACE Group Classic. The First Tee youth competed in an alternate-shot format, and each team took the best-ball score from either the alternate shot or the professional’s individual ball.
Rokela’s 8-foot putt on the final hole became crucial after The First Tee of Philadelphia team double-bogeyed the final hole. Rokela calmly converted the putt to claim victory for the Naples/Collier team.
“It was a lot of fun, good experiences,” said Rokela. “Mr Roberts is such a nice man. We talked a lot about fitness, and I really learned from his game about his course management and what I need to do in my own game.”
“It’s great to see the kids that want to get out and work at it,” Roberts said. “The First Tee program, golf is the hook to get them there, but it’s not just about golf. It’s about life skills. It’s about growing and how you approach life, and that’s what I think all of the professionals on Tour love about The First Tee.”
Roberts and Sigel are both active ambassadors in the golf community, especially within The First Tee organization whose mission is to educate and promote life skills through the game of golf.
Roberts is a two-time champion of The ACE Group Classic and, after not winning in 2011 for the first time since joining the Tour in 2005, he is looking to rekindle the form he had early in his Champions Tour career.
“Last year was off a little bit, but, hey, I am older. I’ll be 57 in June,” said Roberts. “Plus, there are guys who play this Tour now that are still competitive on the PGA TOUR. That says a lot about the Champions Tour.”
It’s a big week for The First Tee of Naples/Collier, which is in its fifth year as a chapter and first as the tournament’s host charity. A check for $85,000, the amount donated by the 2012 ACE Group Classic, was presented to John McDonald, executive director of The First Tee of Philadelphia, and Cindy Darland, executive director of The First Tee of Naples/Collier during the tournament’s pro-am pairings party.
Twenty-four First Tee children participated in Tuesday night’s “Deal or No Deal” pro-am pairings party, which raised $6,000 for the chapter last year.
The First Tee juniors and parents also will be honorary observers with a couple of groups, and more will greet the Champions Tour professionals on the first tee on Saturday and Sunday, introducing themselves and handing them their scorecards.
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