Pebble event helps young players on and off course

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Dana Quigley has kept in touch with several of his former partners from the Home Care & Hospice First Tee Open.
August 13, 2010
Mark Williams, PGA TOUR Staff

Felicia Sauceda's mother, Kathy, said her daughter literally "vibrated" with excitement when she was told she would be one of 78 junior golfers selected to compete with Champions Tour pros in this year's Home Care & Hospice First Tee Open at Pebble Beach on Sept. 3-5.

"I didn't believe it at first," said 15-year-old Felicia, who represents The First Tee of the Golden Triangle. "Now I can't wait to play No. 7," she added, referring to one of the most photographed par 3s in the world.

No one can predict the future, but maybe Felicia, one of 24 girls in the field, will become just as successful as another young girl who played in the inaugural event back in 2004.

Paula Creamer, now 24 and the winner of this year's U.S. Women's Open, was glad she accepted the invitation to play at Pebble Beach six years ago. However, she was reluctant to attend the traditional party on the beach at the start of the week.

"I didn't really know anybody but my parents said I should go, so I did," Creamer said. "I met so many great people and other kids from around the world and really had a lot of fun. Actually, I was one of the last to leave and really didn't want to leave even though almost everyone else had left. It was a fantastic night."

Creamer embraced the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere, mix with Champions Tour pros and gather information she has put to good use in her LPGA Tour career. She played practice rounds with Bruce Lietzke, Jerry Pate and Ben Crenshaw, and all three advised her on strategies and offered opinions on the secrets of Pebble Beach.

"They all seemed to really take a lot of interest in how I should play the course during the tournament," said Creamer. "I will never forget the experience."

Creamer and partner Dana Quigley tied for second that year. Quigley has since attended several events to watch and support the LPGA star.

"I didn't know much about her before I got there in 2004, but I started hearing about her outstanding record as a junior," Quigley said. "She played like she had been in the big show for a long time. We've kept in touch ever since. I was very proud of her when she won the U.S. Women's Open this year."

Although Creamer and her immediate family have no direct connection to any Home Care & Hospice organizations, she is aware of other families who have had the opportunity to experience the special people involved in the industry now aligned with the event.

"It's quite comforting to know that there are such 'angels' to help people during difficult times," she said.

Quigley has an affinity for the Home Care & Hospice First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. He has played in the tournament every year except 2009 and will return this year after being sidelined since the start of the year with a shoulder injury which required surgery. Although he has never claimed the individual Champions Tour title, he did win the pro-junior portion of the tournament with Scott Langley in 2006.

"It's a really big deal for me," said Quigley, whose best finish as an individual is a tie for 11th in 2005. "It's probably more important than winning the overall tournament. I like being a bit of a role model and our partnership with The First Tee allows us to do that there. I know it's special for all the kids who are fortunate enough to get to play at Pebble Beach with us in the event."

Langley, a left-hander who represented The First Tee of The Gateway, has played in the event twice, the first time with Tom Purtzer in 2005. He is another example of a young player who has made his mark at a national level after having the opportunity to experience the Home Care & Hospice First Tee Open at Pebble Beach.

The University of Illinois senior captured the individual NCAA Championship title in June this year. Two weeks later, he tied for 16th with Russell Henley and shared low amateur honors at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Langley was the lone qualifier from 19 players at sectional qualifying in St. Louis, shooting 66-66 -- 132 to earn his spot in the national championship.

Langley, now 21, was a counselor for The First Tee of The Gateway in St. Louis for several years, mentoring the younger participants in his chapter. He was amazed at the number of kids who came out and joined The First Tee because they saw Tiger Woods on TV.

"It (golf) was never the coolest thing to do," said Langley.

While Langley's best memory of the tournament at Pebble Beach was winning with Quigley, he said getting to mingle with the Champions Tour players and meet some of the heroes of the game was also a highlight.

"It was really neat getting to spend the time with the pros we always watched on television in a casual setting and just getting to hang out," he said. "Dana is a blast. He's one of the coolest guys I've ever met. To share that (victory) with him was really, really cool."

"Scott is as honest as they come," Quigley said. "I remember him always wanting to do the right thing and following the rules. I hope he goes on to have a great career because he's a fine young man."

Langley says the most important thing golf has taught him is integrity. "You are your own referee out there," he explained. "Golf has taught me that real honesty is doing the right thing and being honest even when no one else is watching."

Creamer also frequently refers to the nine core values of The First Tee.

"They apply everyday in life," she said. "Perseverance is one that I would put fairly high on my list. Through golf I have learned to persevere through patience. However, I think that hard work, self belief and determination can allow you to succeed and achieve your goals. This concept gave me the opportunity to win the U.S. Women's Open."

Quigley offered plenty of advice to Creamer when they partnered during the event.

"I told her to stay grounded and I think she's done that," said Quigley. "She saw what a workhorse and grinder I was and I think that helped her become a better player."

He also shared a great lesson with Langley in the heat of competition. "I just remember when we were five shots behind at the turn on the last day and I told him we could still win this," Quigley said. "I think we shot 6 under on the last nine at Pebble Beach and won. He'll never forget that. I told him to never stop, to keep on going."

Quigley and Langley continue to stay in touch. He was glad to hear that Langley won the NCAA Championship. During this year's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Quigley sent Langley several text messages to encourage him.

Youngsters from The First Tee have become successful in other endeavors besides golf.

Take Teddy Collins, for example. He attended Stanford, where he played on the golf team, and more importantly, received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He also attended Oxford as an undergraduate, where he got to experience new cultures and have one-on-one classes with the professor.

"I was also able to partake in some extensive travel," said Collins, who visited five different countries during his time at Oxford.

After a stint in New York as an investment banking analyst with J.P. Morgan Securities, covering diversified industrials and transportation mergers and acquisitions, Collins recently returned to San Francisco, joining Perella Weinberg Partners. He still plays golf about once a month and has managed to lose a few strokes off his handicap.

"Golf has taught me that the world is interconnected," said Collins. "The people I've met on the golf course have helped me more than the scores I've shot."

Perhaps Felicia Sauceda and the other 77 First Tee youngsters who will tee it up in the Home Care & Hospice First Tee Open at Pebble Beach will meet someone who helps them in the future, which will be more memorable than the scores that they shoot. That certainly seems like a strong possibility for whoever gets Dana Quigley as a partner.