There were 36 boys and girls age 9 to 17 participating in a junior scramble on the Sunnylands golf course today. All of them, accompanied by their coaches, are members of The First Tee of Coachella Valley, a child development organization that uses golf to teach core values like integrity and sportsmanship. This marks the first time a community group has played on the course since The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands opened in March of this year.
According to Then-President Geoffrey Cowan, “the Trustees of The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands are creating opportunities for select groups to access the golf course as part of our mission and commitment to serve the community. “ Today’s tournament is the first of three that will take part this week. On June 13, clients from Desert Arc, an organization that seeks to enhance the quality of life and provide opportunities for people with disabilities, will play on the course. On Thursday, combat veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will take to the course after a Flag Day ceremony.
Prior to today’s event, 18 boys and girls from The First Tee were selected for and participated in an eight-week program at Sunnylands that included tours of the house, Center & Gardens and weekly play on the golf course.
Upon arriving at Sunnylands at 6:30 a.m., The First Tee participants were given Sunnylands hats and bag tags, were put into teams, and headed to the driving range to warm up.
Steve Plummer, president of Championship Golf Services of Orange County, who has consulted with Sunnylands on the restoration and maintenance of its golf course, was instrumental in the development of this series of golf tournaments. Plummer greeted the First Tee players at the driving range and explained they would be playing the historic experience–one similar to that played by the many U.S. Presidents and world leaders who played the course while Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg were alive. Plummer told the group about the important role good citizenship played for the Annenbergs and then led everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. Golf carts delivered teams of one adult and two young people to the various holes for a modified scramble.
At the seventh hole, a par five, Caroline Ordian, 15, of Palm Desert, who played the course previously while participating in the eight-week program at Sunnylands, said she was pretty happy with her two-under -par performance. “It’s about your strategy,” she explained. Greg Frech of Flemings restaurant, the adult volunteer playing with Caroline, scored par on the hole and said, “Clearly I’m playing over my head.” The team, which also included Brendan Calasan, 14, of La Quinta, took second place scoring a one-under-par 36.
After playing nine holes, everyone returned to Sunnylands Center & Gardens for box lunches provided by Windy City Catering of Bermuda Dunes and the award ceremony. First place went to the team of Alex Crozier, 12, Dylan Hayes, 13, and Kent Hanson, for a four-under-par score of 33 that was in part credited to Crozier’s 50-yard chip-in on his first hole. Each member of the winning teams received a glass Sunnylands Center paperweight.
Participants were greeted by President Cowan who asked for a volunteer to share with the group his or her favorite First Tee value. Hunter Brewer, 12, mentioned three: sportsmanship, judgment, and respect for others, “When you do something nice, you get something back.”