The First Tee Coachella Valley selected two junior golfers to participate in the Junior Course Reporter program during The American Express at PGA WEST.
The program is designed to provide young people with a rewarding opportunity to participate in a unique behind-the-scenes experience at the tournament. Cohen Havrey and Maleyna Gregorio were given and experience that they will never forget!
My Experience as a Standard Bearer at the 2022 American Express
by Cohen Harvey
How could I not jump at the opportunity to get a front row seat to the sport I love? So, that’s exactly what I did when I was offered the chance to participate as a standard bearer for the AMEX. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. What a truly wonderful and quite incredible experience this was! Walking behind the ropes with the professionals, the very best in the sport, facing off against each other was eye-opening.
The first day, Friday, was filled with excitement and I was eager to see who I’d be the standard bearer for. My fellow First Tee teammates and I arrived early at the event. I walked to the volunteer tent and got prepared to head out. Little did I know that this would be the day I’d be fortunate enough to get to work with the 2011 number one ranked player in the world, Luke Donald, and the amazing four time PGA tour winner, CT Pan. What a fantastic way to start this adventure. Walking the entire 18 holes offered an eye-witness to some inspiring shots. Watching players at this level allowed me to pick up so many tips and tricks. After the round, I got some signatures, talked with the players about their rounds, and took some pictures I’ll cherish forever. That night I was able to enjoy my first concert. Maroon Five performed many of their popular songs. The energy felt by being in a crowd of music-loving fans was exciting.
My second day was Saturday. The weekend felt different. There was an amazing sense in the air, a building of anticipation. I knew the day would be interesting based on the windy conditions. Again, I went to the volunteer tent to get ready to head out. But first I wanted to watch the pros. My coaches let me walk down to the range and watch them hit. Every shot, a perfect one. It was truly spectacular. After making my observations and taking a lot of videos for my own practice sessions, I headed back to the tent to see who I would be with for the day. Today I walked with FedEx cup winner Bill Haas and 7 time winner on tour Jonathon Byrd. I appreciated all the thoughtful work these two golfers were able to present. Overall, today offered a lot of great observational information that I can incorporate in my own golf game. The cherry on top was meeting Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson, who signed my First Tee shirt. I’m never washing it! Later this evening I was able to enjoy my second concert, performed by Brad Paisley. He was so entertaining and really engaged the crowd with his performance and humor.
Sunday, my last day as a standard bearer and the final day of the tournament came. This was the day that something I never could have dreamed of happened. I was paired with the current number one professional golfer in the world, Jon Rahm. This trio also included Davis Riley and Brian Harmon. Playing at this level with the immense pressure to perform really highlighted the difficulty of this sport and the respect I have for these professionals. If you are ever offered the opportunity to enjoy such a close, behind the scenes view of an event of this magnitude, I encourage you to do so. It was such a great opportunity. One I will cherish forever.
Inside the Ropes
by Maleyna Gregorio
Some people would say that the highlight of their weekend was going to the farmers market or watching the Sunday night football game. Mine, on the other hand, happened to be walking inside the ropes for six hours and having conversations with some of the biggest names on the PGA Tour. This past weekend the American Express tournament was hosted just down the street from my house. I had the great privilege to have attended all four days of
the tournament with The First Tee of the Coachella Valley. Each day of the tournament I took on the responsibility to be a standard bear (carrying a ten pound scoreboard for a group of players) and may I just say, it has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Round two of the tournament I got to walk with Jason Day and Justin Rose (or as most people call him Rosey). Now not only was I starstruck but I was completely amazed at the dialogue that happens between the caddie and the player, the attitude they have whether it’s a good or bad shot, and what their mindset is after trying to save an up and down for par. Just as Justin Rose hit his tee shot off the sixteenth hole on the Stadium Course, it just so happened that we were walking beside each other headed towards the fairway and he asked,
*in a british accent* “Do you play golf?”
*in my head I am going nuts* I respond: “Why yes, a lot actually, I absolutely love it.”
He looks and makes eye contact with me: “Well that’s great! Do you want to go pro?”
I say: “That’s the goal! I’m currently talking to D1’s and D2’s about collegiate golf.”
Eye contact once more: “That’s wonderful! Proud of you! I’ll be sure to see you on tour.”
If you could see the emotions going through my head after that small conversation that Justin Rose had with me, I mean it would be chaotic. Not only am I going to remember that for the rest of my life but it’s an inspiration for me to continue doing what I love to do most in this world. After the round ended, I ended up getting a signed ball and a picture with both of them. But, that’s not the end of my wonderful day… After the sun went down, the driving range lit up with lights for the Maroon 5 concert. And may I just say it was AMAZING!
Round three of the tournament I got to walk with Harry Higgs and Pat Perez. Both of them were in the zone and mainly focused on either staying in contention or making the cut. So, I first hand got to see the ups and downs of their round. But after eighteen holes, it just so happened that Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler were paired together a couple groups after mine. So as they walked out of scoring I not only got photos with them but I actually had a
conversation with them as well! One would think that life couldn’t get any better right?
Wrong. Life did in fact get even better. Last round of the AMEX, I got to walk with the twenty-twenty-one Fedex Cup champion himself, Patrick Cantlay! I was filled with euphoria. I introduced myself as he stepped onto the first hole and I can’t even put into words that moment, the eye contact, the fist bump, it was a better experience than being at Disneyland. Although I did not get to talk to Cantlay that much since he was in contention and was in the
zone. I did get to see him sink some birdies and after his birdie on the fourteenth hole, he tossed his ball to me and I was indeed in shock.
There’s a hundred more things that I could talk about but,I truly would not have been able to experience any of this without The First Tee of the Coachella Valley. The amount of opportunities they give to their students goes beyond what I just shared. The memories that were made this past week are ones that each one of us will remember for a lifetime. It just goes to show how much this organization cares about our youth and what they stand for with growing the game of golf along with each student. I am proud and beyond grateful to be a part of this wonderful organization.