AGOSTINI: First Tee program sends Modesto-area kids to watch professional tournament

ragostini@modbee.comOctober 2, 2013 

— The First Tee of Central Valley has carved a large presence over the years at the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.

The Champions Tour event completed its 10th renewal last weekend as Kirk Triplett won for the second straight year. Sure enough, the local First Tee chapter — headquartered at Modesto Municipal — was well-represented.

That may come as a mild surprise to some golf observers, given the fact that this was the first year a local junior did not earn his or her way into the tournament.

Did it stop Modesto's First Tee kids? Hardly.

Two busloads, 74 members in all, made the trip to Pebble Beach for the tournament's second round on Saturday. The caravan, an annual affair which always featured the kids making signs and cheering the local entry, was not canceled.

Why? Sandra de Alcuaz, the chapter's executive director, said, "Why not?"

"It's always fabulous for the kids," de Alcuaz said. "We know a lot of people there through our Northern California matches and activities. Even though we didn't have a rooting interest this year, you can't let the kids not go. It's a learning experience for them to see what a real tournament is. And it's good for them to see what you can aspire to in golf."

Modesto's Brent Gardner, a First Tee board member, did take part in the tournament's pro-am but didn't make the cut. On TV, Downey High graduate Laura Arellano — Triplett's junior partner last year, was seen in 2012 highlights on the Golf Channel.

"It was a great day for the kids and the chaperones," de Alcuaz said. "We had one of those perfect days at Pebble Beach."

THE SHAG BAG — Nature Valley has extended its title sponsorship of the First Tee Open through 2016. ... More than two months after a fire destroyed large portions of its clubhouse, Stevinson Ranch continues its comeback. The first-class golf facility south of Hilmar remains open, though it's been forced to improv on its daily services. "I want to be positive but it's hard," owner George Kelley said. "We're operating out of a taco truck." Obtaining permits to build a temporary structure has been difficult, Kelley said, but there is good news: The greens, damaged by nematodes earlier this year, have recovered and are rolling fast. "I consulted with an architect for the new clubhouse this week," Kelley said. ... The Junior Golf Tour of Northern California's Fall Series continues with its sixth event this weekend at Greenhorn Creek in Angels Camp. The Northern California Golf Association-backed circuit wheeled into Diablo Grande near Patterson last week. Justin Morrish of Manteca placed fifth in the first flight (79-76 — 155).

HOLE-IN-ONE — Ken French, Oakdale, 140-yard 16th at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 5-wood.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter, @modbeesports.

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