Two years ago Jordan Keyser, then a Yosemite High sophomore, followed her older sister Kirsten around the Links at Pebble Beach with her parents Kent and Shelly, as Kirsten played in the Nature Valley First Tee Open with Champions Tour professional Mark Calcavecchia.
On July 6-8, it was Jordan's turn and she played some of the best golf of her young career as her and Calcavecchia tied for sixth place out of 81 teams in the pro/junior contest.
The duo was in second place at the end of the first day at minus eight after playing Del Monte Golf Course. The next two days Calcavecchia was one over and the team finished 16 under and tied for sixth four strokes out of the lead.
"I actually wished I did not have to tee off on Sunday because I didn't want this experience to end," Jordan said.
The juniors must meet certain criteria and apply to be selected for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Of all The First Tee Chapters across America only 25% were represented at the event this year. The First Tee of Fresno Chapter was fortunate to have two juniors selected. Keyser and Clayton Vanetta of Fresno. The Oakhurst First Tee is an extension of The First Tee of Fresno.
The First Tee is not about producing great golfers but is more about developing citizens with great character that can golf. Each participant is indoctrinated in the nine core values of the program which are honesty, courtesy, respect, perseverance, judgment, responsibility, sportsmanship, integrity and confidence. These life skills will benefit participants throughout life. Their selection to The First Tee Open is more about being able to communicate the core values than about displaying their golf skills, although their golf skills are also important to qualify.
The juniors that participate are good golfers. One of the 81 juniors recorded a hole in one at Pebble Beach. Jordan knocked in her second shot, a wedge, on hole No. 3 at Pebble Beach for an Eagle. Both of these occurred during their practice rounds. Jordan and her caddie Jesse Pence, were excited to be paired with Calcavecchia.
Jordan had a gallery close to 50 people made up of Mountain Area friends and family and First Tee officials from the Central Valley.
The final round Calcavecchia/Keyser were paired with pro Hale Irwin and junior player Kyle Kubala of St. Petersburg. Fla. the junior recording the hole in one during his practice round.
One of Jordan's biggest moments during the tournament was when she sank her 48-foot putt on the famous 18th hole par five to record a birdie. This occurred directly after the crowd roared when Hale Irwin birdied with a 53-foot putt. Jordan enjoyed the celebration as hugs and congratulations were exchanged at the end of the round between pros and juniors.
After the tournament Calcavecchia said Jordan is a highly intelligent golfer who loves the game and is strong off the tee. His advice was for her to work on her chipping a little bit.
"I wish all junior golfers could enjoy this wonderful experience," Jordan said after the event.
Other Tour of Champions pros who played in the event were Craig Stadler, Peter Jacobsen, Tom Kite, Fuzzy Zoeller, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Glasson.
All three days of the tournament was televised on the Golf Channel.
Jordan was excited to make many friends with both pro and junior golfers had the opportunity to meet golf legend Arnold Palmer, Peter Uberoth and comedian Ron White.
A big believer of The First Tee program, Jordan said "The First Tee and our chapter rocks -- All kids should be involved in this fun and rewarding golf program."
During the tournament she picked-up a lot of advice and wisdom from the pros she hopes to put to use at the 64th Annual USGA Girls' Junior Championship this week (July 16-21) where she is competing against some of the best junior players in the world. Jordan hopes to play well and attract the attention of a few of the more than 50 college coaches who will scouting for talent at the event.
Jordan has been the North Sequoia League's MVP three straight years and was named to the Fresno Bee's 2011 Girls All Star First Team in golf. She will lead the Badgers in the fall, looking for an eighth consecutive NSL title.