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Tee time for local youth

The First Tee teaches core values through golf
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Ashley Noda remembers what she did three years ago after hearing the disappointing news that her private high school in Sacramento was closing its doors: She went to a golf course.

The Roseville resident can be found golfing most days, especially during summer.

“It’s my favorite thing to do,” Noda said. “It’s my passion. If I’m ever upset or angry, it’s my escape or my relaxation. It’s my comfort zone. I really enjoy being out there.”

The 17-year-old St. Francis High School senior also showcases her love of golf by participating in The First Tee, an international nonprofit organization that provides young people with the chance to build character and learn life-enhancing values through golf.

Kids age 7 to 12 participate in a playing program called “Little Linkers,” and youth 12 to 18 years old play in a year-round competitive tournament program.

But The First Tee isn’t just about golf. The organization focuses on developing honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.

“The game of golf teaches them these traits,” said Greg Rhine, who is involved with The First Tee of Greater Sacramento. “If we all focused on these nine traits, the world would be a better place to live.”

Rhine is co-organizing the sixth annual First Tee High Five Scholarship Golf Tournament at Sun City Roseville on Friday, July 15. Spots are still available for Sun City residents to sign up and golf on a five-member team with a junior player from the local First Tee chapter.

The event serves as a scholarship fundraiser for students, and Sun City residents serve as volunteers.

“The involvement of the (Sun City) community and children mesh so well and it’s a pleasant experience for both,” he said.

But before the local tournament comes the annual First Tee Open at Pebble Beach from July 4-10, when 75 golfers from around the world are selected to participate in this elite competition. The junior golfers are paired with a Champions Tour professional and two amateurs.

The Greater Sacramento chapter is sending six teenagers to the event — more than any other chapter in the world, said Angie Dixon. Two of those kids are local: Brandon Baumgarten is from Granite Bay and Clare Sorensen lives in Roseville.

Dixon, an LGPA member, is director of competitive activities for The First Tee of Greater Sacramento. Her chapter has 1,800 members.

Noda golfed in the Pebble Beach tournament the past two years, so she is no longer eligible to participate. During the summer, she competes every week in a different golf tournament, primarily in California. But she has also traveled to Virginia, North Carolina and Nebraska for golf. She’s going to Wyoming this year.

Noda started golfing when she was 3 years old and joined The First Tee at 7 years old, coached by Dixon. Among her many successes, she counts her involvement in the organization, and an unrelated heartbreaking loss in golf in 2009.

“One of my proudest accomplishments is I played in the Girls Junior State Championships on the Monterey peninsula two years ago,” she said. “I was runner-up. I won the semis and then lost on the last hole in the finals. But I did everything I could do to win, but she just did one better.”

In addition to competing on the First Tee junior team, she also serves on the junior committee and organizes fundraisers and teaches a life-skills class at each golf event.

“I use the core values and life skills not just in my golf game but at school and at home,” Noda said. “It’s just integrated into my entire life and who I am today.”

As one of the older members, she said, she now wants to give back and be a role model for the younger kids.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.

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The First Tee Scholarship Tournament
When:
Shotgun scramble 8 a.m. Friday, July 15
Where: Nine holes at Sierra Pines Golf Course or 18 holes at Timber Creek Golf Course at Sun City, 7050 Del Webb Blvd. in Roseville
Cost: Green fees plus $47 (covers $25 scholarship donation, lunch, junior’s lunch and prizes)
Info: Four Sun City residents play with one First Tee junior in a High Five scramble. Sign up as an individual or a team. Call Bill Gould at (916) 774-2630 or visit www.thefirstteesacramento.org.