Garreth Carpenter, Sam Odi and Ster-ling Tran will be spending their Labor Day weekend amid the breathtaking beauty -- and headache-inducing winds -- of Pebble Beach Golf Links thanks to the skills they learned at The First Tee of Augusta.
Being talented young golfers was not enough to qualify the trio for the Walmart First Tee Open at the famed course on the California coastline.
It was a process that began the first day they stepped onto the Damascus Road facility.
The tournament, a pro-am mixing Champions Tour golfers and celebrities with the stars of The First Tee program, requires its applicants to go through a judgment process based on seven criteria: scores at the qualifying tournament in Arkansas, personal interviews, knowledge of life skills, an essay, involvement and longevity with The First Tee, community involvement and decorum.
This year marked the first time that three members of the Augusta chapter reached the tournament at Pebble Beach.
"I'm just so happy that all three of us made it," said Carpenter, a 14-year-old rising sophomore at Westside High. "Every year three go (to the qualifying tournament) but this year all three (from the Augusta chapter) made it. It's like the three that have grown up together their whole lives. We're a family."
Carpenter and Odi, a sophomore at Augusta Prep, both started at The First Tee in 2003, taking their initial lessons at the same time. Tran, whose brother Jeffrey played in the national event in 2007, began playing at The First Tee in 2001.
During their interview process, all three credited the help of staff members Jill Brown and Lashunda Hall for keeping them motivated and also providing a family atmosphere for youth of all races and backgrounds.
"I've always appreciated the diversity and how they didn't just focus on one skin color or ethnic group. They incorporated all different kinds of people," said Sterling Tran, a junior at Lakeside High.
Carpenter shot 94-80, Odi shot 77-83 and Tran shot 87-85 in the qualifying tournament earlier this month at Shadow Valley Country Club in Bentonville, Ark. However, golf only accounted for 30 percent of the application process.
Putting those struggles behind them, the three teenagers are now focused on taking on Pebble Beach on Sept. 4-7 and making their hometown proud in the process.
"I want to go out there and represent Augusta in a positive manner," Odi said. "I want other kids to want to be where I am."
Reach Joey Jones at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.