Beaver Falls junior to play in The First Tee Open at Pebble Beach
Nick Leiper of Chippewa in Beaver County looks forward to an experience of a lifetime playing in The First Tee Open Sept. 27-29 at Pebble Beach, Calif.
A member of The First Tee chapter of Beaver Falls, Leiper, 16, was among 81 males and females ages 14 to 18 selected by a national panel of judges, who evaluated character and playing ability. Nearly 150 applications were submitted.
Junior players will team with 81 Champions Tour players and 162 amateurs as they compete for the pro-junior title at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Del Monte Golf Course. Two-time Charles Schwab Cup champion Tom Lehman and World Golf Hall of Fame member Bernhard Langer are expected to be among the players.
The tournament will be televised internationally by the Golf Channel.
With about 200 chapters across America and in some international locations, The First Tee provides golf instruction to children as a way to build character.
Leiper has been involved with the Beaver Falls chapter, which includes Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties, as well as Columbiana County in Ohio, since he was 7.
“It's awesome that I was selected,” said Leiper, who will be a junior at Blackhawk High School in the fall. “I want to talk with the pros and get some pointers.”
Brian Grogan, the golf professional at Black Hawk Golf Course in Chippewa, is helping Leiper prepare.
“He's going to be playing with some big players,” said Grogan, who has lived in California and played at Pebble Beach. “I'm talking with him some about how the greens will break.”
Grogan expects Leiper to be awestruck.
“With millionaire homes and $10 million views, there are a lot of distractions (at Pebble Beach),” Grogan said. “He'll be riding through the same gates that players like Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have driven through.
“That's when the feeling is going to hit him where he is playing.”
Leiper has modest goals.
“I want to have fun and take time to enjoy the experience,” Leiper said.
According to executive director Irene Ridenour, Leiper is the third member of the The First Tee of Beaver Falls to compete in the tournament, which is in its 10th year. Cousins Garrett Sieger and A.J. Sieger also played.
“For a small chapter, we've done very well,” Ridenour said. “It's hard being selected. (Applicants) submit essays and are interviewed thoroughly.”
“It's a huge accomplishment,” Grogan agreed. “More than golf, it's about being a good human being.”
A returning letter winner, Leiper is expected to be one of the top three players on a Blackhawk boys team that qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs last fall.
“This experience will make him better,” said Blackhawk coach Joe Boyer, adding that he envies Leiper playing at Pebble Beach.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.