GREENSBORO, N.C. – The First Tee of the Triad is sending three of its participants to compete in the 2014 Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, an official Champions Tour event that will be held September 26-28 and televised internationally on Golf Channel, the chapter announced today.
Matthew Guo from Clemmons, N.C., Mark Johnston from Lewisville, N.C., and Chandler Wilkins from Danville, Va., will join 78 other participants from The First Tee chapters for the event, which is in its 11th year.
“Nature Valley is proud to be associated with this event and thrilled to see these juniors get the call of a lifetime,” said Joe Ens, vice president of marketing at General Mills. “The First Tee is doing incredible work helping young people learn important life lessons like the Nine Core Values. We look forward to welcoming Matthew, Mark, Chandler and the full junior field at this year’s tournament.”
Guo, Johnston and Wilkins were selected by a national panel of judges who evaluated playing ability and comprehension of the life skills and character education learned through their involvement with The First Tee. More than 150 applications were submitted. Champions Tour players committed to play include two-time Nature Valley First Tee Open winner and defending champion Kirk Triplett, Charles Schwab Cup contenders Jay Haas and Kenny Perry and a number of World Golf Hall of Fame members.
Guo, 15, is sophomore at West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, N.C. He began playing golf at age nine and has been a First Tee of the Triad participant for six years. He has participated in The First Tee Challenge, The First Tee Life Skills and Leadership Academy, the Duke TIP (Talent Identification Program), the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center volunteer program and the Wyndham Championship Pro-Am.
“I have dreamed about participating in this event since I joined The First Tee of the Triad,” Guo said. “I even made a “Goal Ladder” to help me qualify for this tournament. To prepare for the Nature Valley First Tee Open, I am practicing every day, fine-tuning my game, so I will be ready to play with the professional golfers on challenging golf courses. I am most looking forward to connecting with my peers and other participants, but I will enjoy playing with and learning from the Champions Tour players on the famous Pebble Beach golf course.”
Johnston, 18, is a senior at West Forsyth High School. He began playing golf at age four and has been a First Tee of the Triad participant for four years. In addition to playing golf, he tutors students in his community and doubles as a First Tee of the Triad coach. He played in the North Carolina Amateur and the Wyndham Championship Pro-Am; he hopes to play golf in college starting next year.
Wilkins, 16, is a junior at Tunstall High School in Danville, Va.; he began playing golf when he was eight and has been a First Tee participant for eight years. He was on a Virginia State Championship golf team for his high school and hopes to play golf in college, and later, on the PGA TOUR. He has served as a mentor and assistant coach for the First Tee of Danville, worked with the Boys and Girls Club on a mission trip to Pittsburgh, Pa., and participated in community events to raise awareness of The First Tee of Danville.
“We are so proud of all three of these young men for reaching the Nature Valley Open in Pebble Beach,” The First Tee of the Triad CEO Mike Barber said. “This tournament is such a wonderful event, and it provides the kids with something that could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Playing Pebble Beach is a very special opportunity, but to be paired with a Champions Tour professional makes it even more incredible. We wish all of our participants the best of luck and look forward to hearing their stories when they return.”
Guo, Johnston, Wilkins and the other juniors will be paired with 81 Champions Tour players and 162 amateurs as they compete for the pro-junior title at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course. Play will be conducted on these courses on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 26 and 27, and the final round will be played on Pebble Beach Sunday, Sept. 28.
The First Tee of The Triad is one of 177 chapters around the country and in select international locations. Serving the Piedmont Triad since 2007, more than 3500 young people have benefitted from chapter programs and after school classes. Additionally, The First Tee National School Program currently in 41 Piedmont Triad elementary schools, has exposed thousands of students to Life Skills and Golf with an in-school physical education curriculum. The programs are focused on building character through The First Tee Nine Core Values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment.
To learn more about The First Tee of The Triad, please visit www.thefirsteetriad.org. For more information on the 2014 Nature Valley First Tee Open, visit www.thefirstteeopen.com. For more information or to request an interview or photos, please contact Mike Barber using the contact information below.
About The First Tee of the Triad
The First Tee, an initiative of the World Golf Foundation, has as its mission, “To impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character-development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf.” The goal of The First Tee is to provide the golf-learning facilities and the experience that will enable kids from every walk of life to partake of a game that teaches values for life and which can be played for a lifetime. The First Tee of the Triad is one of 204 chapters operating at some 692 facilities in all 50 states and five foreign countries with more than 3 million participants. More than 3,300 schools also participate in the program. Founded by the World Golf Foundation in 1997, The First Tee is a way to bring golf to children that otherwise would not be exposed to the game or its positive values. The program is overseen and has the active support of committee members representing Augusta National Golf Club, the Ladies Professional Golf Association, PGA of America, PGA TOUR and the United States Golf Association. Former President George W. Bush serves as Honorary Chairman.