Texas Tee Golf Tournament to Hit Hole-in- One for Local Charity on Sept. 17
Local Children Who Play Golf Will Receive Benefits
By Anna Saikin
For First Tee of Greater Houston golfers, inclusiveness is par for the course. The Houston-area educational program offers golfing instruction for local children aged 7 to 18 and reaches 156,000 kids annually with outreach programs, golf classes and volunteer activities at eight facility locations. The Quail Valley First Tee branch has become so popular with Fort Bend residents that the holes at the El Dorado course are often over-crowded on weekends as experienced and new golfers alike vie for tee-time. This September, organizers of the annual Texas Tee Charity Golf Tournament hope to alleviate congestion on the course by raising money to build a 3-hole practice course for the kids.
Like First Tee, participation in the Texas Tee Tournament has grown each year, with many players returning year after year to raise money for scholarships and facility improvements. The Quail Valley Ladies Golf Association hosts the Texas Tee, and previous years have been so successful that the women-only portion had a full schedule. In order to increase funds to expand the golf course, the 2016 Texas Tee will expand to include men as well as women on the teams. This year there will be two divisions for the scramble-style tournament: one for women, and one that will be an open division for coed teams. Each team will consist of four golfers. As with previous years, every golfer will receive a small gift on each hole, a unique feature that many listed as their favorite part of the tournament.
Although the tournament is for adults, kids will be the primary focus of the event, and First Tee participants have been heavily involved in the planning stages. During the tournament itself, kids will have the opportunity to take demo lessons and watch experienced golfers practice their swing. Co-chair Viki Gregory said their goal is to take the tournament to the next level. She stated, “Our goal is to really ramp up the proceeds for the Quail Valley facility that positively impacts the lives of thousands of students in the Fort Bend area.” By opening participation to men, organizers for the charity event state that their goal is to increase community participation.
Public interest in golf has increased in recent years in part due to the proliferation of casual golfing facilities such as Top Golf. First Tee allows kids from all backgrounds the opportunity to learn about golf without the high costs that might create a barrier of entry. Membership in First Tee costs only $30 per year, and financial assistance is provided to those who qualify. Players advance through five certification levels — PLAYer, Par, Birdie, Eagle, and Ace — as they gain life skills crystalized in First Tee’s 9 Core Values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment. In addition, First Tee helps students understand and implement the 9 Healthy Habits of energy, play, safety, vision, mind, family, friends, school, and community.
First Tee students have gone to national competitions and have been awarded college scholarships for golf. Kathy Sowards, co-chair of the Texas Tee tournament, says, “This highly successful program has benefitted many Fort Bend students. There is now, in fact, a waiting list for students to participate.” First Tee of Greater Houston ranks No. 1 in outreach out of nearly 200 chapters and has awarded more than $980,000 in scholarships since 1996.
The Texas Tee tournament continues this spirit of philanthropy by emphasizing camaraderie and fun and focusing less on winning and handicaps. In addition to raising money through registration fees, a silent and live auction will be held in conjunction with the tournament. The silent auction will include opportunities to buy raffle tickets for gift baskets, and the live auction will feature larger ticket items such as rounds at private golf clubs. Gregory encourages Fort Bend businesses to donate items for the auction. “Being a Texas Tee sponsor provides unique visibility for supporting the local arm of a highly respected program,” she said.
This year’s tournament will take place on Sept. 17 at the Quail Valley El Dorado course. The fees for the Texas Tee charity tournament are $125 per person or $500 for a team, and include cart, range balls lunch and dinner, as well as goody bags at each hole. Those who wish to contribute but do not want to join a team are encouraged to donate or bid on items for the silent and live auction. Proceeds from the tournament and auction will benefit the First Tee of Greater Houston at Quail Valley.
Parents of students who are interested in learning more about First Tee can attend a new member orientation session on Aug. 4 from 6-7 p.m. at the Quail Valley Campus at 2880 La Quinta Drive in Missouri City.