In September, Bellaire junior and The First Tee of Greater Houston participant Eunice Bao competed in the Pure Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach. Playing alongside PGA TOUR pros, Eunice had the experience of a lifetime. Read more about her exciting day in her own words.
The setting sun, the crashing waves, and then — there was me. Standing amongst other The First Tee participants as we cheered on the final groups walking up to the gorgeous 18th green of the renowned Pebble Beach Golf Links. We were bonded by the unforgettable week we had just experienced.
The week started with my heart pumping with anticipation as we drove by the majestic ocean and through the Del Monte Forest to Poppy Hills, where PURE Insurance Championship’s first event, the Welcome Party and Concert, was held. Our own personalized flags and golf bags greeted us on the putting green, and from there, we anxiously waited for the unveiling of our partner’s names. After what seemed like eternity because we were all shivering from the cold ocean breeze, we finally got to see the names on our bag tags. I felt a frisson of excitement because engraved next to my name was “Mark O’Meara.”
The rest of the night, and the nights after, went by in a blur. From glow-in-the-dark putting and making friends with so many wonderful First Tee players from around the nation to eating awesome food at Player Hospitality and experiencing what it felt like to be a pro, every moment I will cherish forever.
Tournament rounds swept in so quickly that we barely had time to fully grasp our dream-turned reality. The night before, at the Legends and Leaders Event, we met and talked to actual legends. Striking up a conversation with golf icon Tom Watson and hearing Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talk about my favorite core value, perseverance, were definitely the highlights of that event. And just moments ago, I had warmed up alongside my pro, Mark, and met my playing partners Jim Carey and Ray Celedinas, both successful businessmen. I still couldn’t believe I was playing with such influential people!
Bringing me back to the present, the tournament official’s booming voice announced my name. I tensely stepped onto the first tee of Poppy Hills and forcefully flashed a smile in an attempt to calm my nervousness. Even though I completely pulled my first tee shot (which hit a tree on the left), Mark encouraged me to remain positive. I had a similar start at the second tournament round at Pebble Beach. However, I persevered through the initial struggles; both days ended up being a blast. The second day, I played with the amateur team: executive Frank Hervdejs and Houston Astros President Jim Crane. The rounds were filled with laughs, and I learned a lot from Mark and the amateurs I played with. Throughout the tournament, Mark and his awesome caddie helped me with aiming, reading greens, and yardages. One advice from Mark that continues to stand out to me was to have confidence on every shot no matter the ball’s lie or the number of shots it took you to get there. With a gorgeous view as my backdrop, I hit golf shots that I will remember for a lifetime. My personal favorite was the chip in on the par 4 15th hole at Pebble Beach.
The gradually setting sun and Bernhard Langer’s winning putt (followed by our cheers) marked the final moments of the closing day. A group selfie and countless more pictures with one another on the 18th green captured our last hurrah for the PURE Insurance Championship. In the end, I was not ready to say goodbye, but I knew I was equipped — with the lessons and experiences I gained from this past week — to embrace any challenge that I may face as I ‘returned to reality.’ I am truly grateful for The First Tee organization and everyone who helped make this event happen, and blessed to have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience this incredible week representing the Greater Houston chapter at the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee.