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Pebble Beach invite for select local high school golfers

Walmart First Tee Open is destination for Gibbs, Noda
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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After carrying his brother’s bag at the Walmart First Tee Open as a 12-year-old, Granite Bay’s Alex Gibbs earned his way back to the prestigious tournament, but this time he will be the one hitting the golf balls. Gibbs is one of six junior golfers from The First Tee of Greater Sacramento that has been selected to play in the Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, an official Champions Tour event that will be held September 4-6 during Labor Day weekend and televised nationally on the Golf Channel. Roseville resident Ashley Noda is also among the select group of 70 junior golfers from 49 Chapters of The First Tee worldwide. The group of talented ball strikers qualified during a rigorous selection process that focused as much on character as it did on scoring. “The qualification process was only 30 percent based on my golf score,” Gibbs said. “The rest was based on interviews where we talked about the life skills learned through First Tee.” The boy’s selection event took place July 14-18 in Rodgers, Ark. at Shadow Valley Country Club where 84 boys competed for 48 invitations. The girl’s selection event took place a week prior, July 7-11 in Rye, NH where 39 girls competed for 22 playing spots. As one of the most unique and popular events on the tour, the Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach annually attracts an all-star lineup of Champions Tour players including World Golf Hall of Fame members Hale Irwin, Larry Nelson and Gary Player, among others. Gibbs has been involved with The First Tee for six years, and has big plans for his golf game. “It has been a career goal since I was 12 years old,” Gibbs said. “When I was younger I liked the game, but I started enjoying it more and more, and began to realize what it could do for my life.” The Granite Bay High student likes his long game, but believes that winning golfers are successful because of their mental toughness. “I am a good ball striker,” Gibbs said. “I am just getting the hang of putting. The game of golf is really 100 percent a mental game. You have to be mentally prepared.” Noda played at Loretto last season, but with the school’s closing, she will be hitting the links at St. Francis this year. With the ability to drive the ball 260 to 290 yards, the sophomore spends most of her practice time working the short game. “I work about 80 percent of the time on 100 yards and in,” Noda said. “Putting and chipping is a big part of my workout routine. I also spend a lot of time working on my core to help in hitting the ball.” The 15-year-old has aspirations of a college career at Stanford followed by a professional golf career, but has a realistic view of what she needs to do with her life after high school. “I would love to play on the LPGA tour,” Noda said. “First, I want a four-year degree from Stanford to prepare me for life while I play and even after my golf career may be over.”