Wednesday and Thursday (3/27-28)
An Experience of a Lifetime
Jessica Madry, 15 yrs
As juniors we dream and set goals to accomplish them. The First Tee of Houston at F.M. Law Park has taught me this amazing life skill. With a lot of hard work and dedication you can accomplish that dream. As a The First Tee participant I was chosen through the efforts and work that I put in to be a Junior Course Reporter for two days at the Shell Houston Open.
As a Junior Course Reporter I was able to interview players, get inside the rope access to their practice, sit in on player news conferences and media interviews, tour the sponsor trucks, tour the SHOTlink trucks, and write an article for the PGATOUR.COM blog.
Being able to watch the best field of players in the world practice and listen to the conversations they have with their caddies and coaches has left a lasting impression on me. They all work hard to fix everything and perfect last minute things for their round.
Another phenomenal part of being a Junior Course Reporter was being able to interview players in the media areas. Being able to interview Phil Mickelson about this week was the most exciting event we got to do.
Going into the sponsor vans has taught me a lot about the custom fitting and what the players can do with their clubs to help their game. Some players change clubs very often and some just come into the vans for a confidence boost about their equipment.
The SHOTlink truck is very advanced and takes a lot of coordination with 250-400 volunteers. The SHOTlink truck is where all of the yardage information is tracked, where the ball lands is tracked, and where the scores are stored. The amazing staff of this truck provides all of this information for the PGATOUR.COM website for golf fan convenience on Shot Tracker.
These past two days have left me memories that I will never forget. As a junior golfer this experience has impacted my view of the game of golf to a new standard. Watching the tournaments on TV every week and counting down to the Shell Houston Open, hoping to meet and see the best in the world play, is a reality that The First Tee has made in to an experience of a lifetime.
Reporting at the Shell Houston Open
Tori Gatling, 15 yrs
I was already off to an early start Wednesday, going to drop off my homework at school and then getting breakfast before making my way over to Redstone Golf Club. Once we arrived, I walked through the familiar doors of the Dick Harmon Learning Center to find myself in a room that had been transformed into what is the Media Center for the Shell Houston Open. I was instantly greeted by friendly faces, and my partner for two days, Jessica Madry, kindly introduced herself. We went over the tee times for the day and soon enough we were outside ready to walk the course.
From the Media Center we walked over to the driving range. Towards the far right end we stopped only about 20 feet away from Johnson Wagner and Rory McIlroy and watched them warm up. Rory was testing out drivers, experimenting with shafts and clubheads, and even asked Paul Casey if he could swing his driver a few times. I realized that I do those things too, and even the pros borrow each other’s clubs to see if they like the different feel. After scoping out the range, we headed over to take a look inside a couple of the equipment trailers. We visited TaylorMade and Nike learning new information about what players look for in their equipment. Both representatives we met were very nice and full of information to share with us, and we were eager to hear it all.
By the time we found our way to the putting green the practice area was full of players. As I observed the players and I noticed how focused they are when they putt. There were bags of all different brands of putters for players to test out, just like there are trailers full of woods and irons for the pros to try as well. After a while, Johnson Wagner walked off the green and nodded at Jessica and me and said “hi”. It was really neat to have a pro acknowledge us, even if it was just to say hello.
We took a long walk over to the SHOTLink trailer and learned all about the tracking systems and how live scoring works. It’s amazing to see how much technology and work goes into making the scores and stats project onto the live scoreboards. All the computers, gadgets and wires in that trailer are more than you can imagine, and the one we visited was one of the smaller ones! From SHOTLink we found our way to Hole #16, home of the Shell The First Tee Challenge. We ran into Dustin Johnson got to take a quick picture with him before he headed off to play the final two holes of the day.
Later we sat in on Steve Stricker’s press conference, which was fun for me because I had done a mock one in journalism class. To be a part of a real one with a real professional was a great experience. Mr. Stricker was kind and made us laugh when he talked about “giving putting lessons” and when someone suggested he “charge for them".
Day two started out just about the same as the first, and soon we were outside walking to hole one. Our guide, HGA Staffer Palmer Hestley, took us into the starter tent where we viewed all the items in the tent such as food, drinks, tees, pencils, placement sheets, and candy. Everything there was quite similar to what’s on the starting hole of our HGA Tournaments (besides the candy!).
After watching two groups tee off, it was time to follow one of the big crowd attracters. We were waiting on the tee box of Hole #2 for Phil Mickelson, Hunter Mahan, and Geoff Ogilvy, and while they made their way, two little boys said “hi” to Mr. Mickelson and Mr. Mahan and they even got high fives from the two. After following the group for a few holes, a little girl gave Mr. Mickelson a thumbs up, and he gave her one back. Once we were all situated on the next hole, the young fan who gave the thumbs up received a signed golf ball from none other than Phil Mickelson himself. I thought that really showed character.
After the group hit their tee shot off Hole #8, Jessica and I made a mad scramble to Mickelson’s post-round interview. Hearing him answer the questions and being that close was awesome, but what put me in even more awe was getting to shake his hand and personally introduce myself. That part was truly special, and he really took interest in what we had to say and was sincere in what he said. It was really kind of him to take time to talk to two kids who were in a state of shock just from shaking his hand.
Overall, getting this opportunity from The First Tee of Greater Houston was an absolutely amazing chance. It’s a lot different getting to experience things from inside the ropes. I’m glad I got the chance to meet new people, volunteers and players. The whole experience is one I will always remember.