Mabel Wong’s final week as a junior golfer will sparkle like found gold.
How can a teenager script it any better? Wong, an Oakdale High School senior, will be paired with a Champions Tour pro at the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach from Friday through Sunday.
The entire week, in fact, amounts to a “pinch-me” moment for Wong, who will wrap up seven years in junior golf with a virtual fairway fantasy at Pebble Beach. She’s never played the famous links.
“Ever since I caddied for (brother) Danny at the tournament, I’ve wanted to play in it,” she said. “He’s told me to play like I normally play, and don’t be nervous. Be who you are and pay attention to everyone around you.”
Wong, a member of The First Tee of Central Valley, is one of 81 selected juniors from around the country who will take part. More than 250 applications were received, so the local junior star already has beaten tall odds.
But it gets even better. Wong has been invited to play in even more prestigious events this week.
On Tuesday, she was one of 18 juniors named to take part in a fundraiser for The First Tee of Monterey County at Poppy Hills. Wong joined a designated pro and two amateurs to form one of 18 teams. The event will give her an extra practice round at Poppy, which underwent a major remodeling since the last time Wong saw the course.
Then there is the annual Coca-Cola Champions Challenge on Thursday. Wong is one of six juniors who will compete here. She and her pro for the tournament will match up against five other teams on Pebble Beach’s “whiskey route” – holes 1, 2, 3, 17 and 18. The purse is $40,000 with winnings to be sent to First Tee chapters.
“I’ll have a chance to give something back to my First Tee chapter,” Wong said. “What better way to do it?”
Her itinerary is filled. Besides all the golf, she’ll attend Wednesday night’s pairings party, where pro-junior pairings are announced, and the pre-tournament banquet Thursday night.
Then it’s all golf, an experience no doubt enhanced when her fellow First Tee friends arrive in buses Saturday to cheer her on. Even McHenry Golf Center instructor Henry Solario, who introduced Wong to golf when she was 5, plans to be there.
“It’s going to be a lot of golf and a lot of fun,” she said. “I’m very excited, and I’m working on my game so I can perform at my best.”
Wong will sign a letter of intent to attend USF in November. There’s no doubt, however, that one of the special entries on her golf résumé happens this week.
Admission is free for the First Tee Open. It will be televised live by the Golf Channel.
The shag bag – Modesto’s Jeff Burda enjoyed an eventful week this month at the U.S. Senior Amateur in Newport Beach. The longtime Del Rio CC member shot 75-72 – 147 at Big Canyon CC to qualify for the 64-man match-play bracket, then defeated Doug Rosburgh of Canada on the 20th hole to reach the round of 32. Burda, 1 down going to the par-5 18th, laced a 5-iron second shot to within three feet for a winning eagle to extend the match. Burda’s tournament ended with a 3-and-2 loss to Tom Brandes of Bellevue, Wash. ...
NBC Sports on-course analyst and former PGA Tour winner Roger Maltbie, fresh off his busy weekend at the Ryder Cup, is the special guest at a dinner and auction to benefit UC Merced athletics. The event will be held Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. at the Kelley Ranch, 4620 Hatfield Road, in Stevinson. To attend, call Stevinson Ranch at (209) 668-8200 (ext. 105) or Chris Luna at UC Merced at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 228-7787. On Oct. 3, a tournament for the same cause is scheduled at Stevinson Ranch. The two-day event honors the memory of the late Georgette “Ma” Kelley, the mother of Stevinson Ranch owner George Kelley. For information, email email@example.com. ...
River Oaks instructor Greg Silva impressed his junior golf students, and perhaps himself, during a recent outing at Greenhorn Creek in Angels Camp. One of the area’s best drivers of the ball shot 6-under-par 66, a stroke below his age. Six birdies and an eagle offset two bogeys. ... Congratulations to former Del Rio assistant pro Wendy Stuart, who has been named the first female Director of Golf at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley.
Holes-in-one – Joe Adams, Modesto, 110-yard 12th at Stevinson Ranch, gap wedge. ... Steve Willis, Modesto, 12th at Stevinson Ranch, pitching wedge. ... Scott Tolbirt, Modesto, 107-yard 16th at Castle Oaks, Ione, gap wedge. ... Patty Briscoe, Oakdale, 149-yard 12th at Oakdale CC, 7-iron.