Sorenstam will play round with 9 First Tee members at The Broadmoor, site of her 1995 U.S. Women’s Open victory; CoBank, The First Tee of GVR, The Broadmoor co-sponsoring August event
by Gary Baines
The folks at The First Tee of Green Valley Ranch, who host the CoBank Colorado Open Championships each year, have had quite the lineup of tour players for junior exhibitions the past two years. And now they’re taking it to the next level.
The lineup in 2016 featured Hale Irwin, Ryan Palmer and Paula Creamer. Last year, David Duval, Lexi Thompson and Mark O’Meara were brought in by CoBank and The First Tee of GVR.
Put those years together and you had two World Golf Hall of Famers (Irwin and O’Meara) and the winners of 52 events on the PGA Tour, 47 on PGA Tour Champions and 19 on the LPGA Tour.
But there will be no resting on laurels in 2018. Officials expect to host at least one exhibition in Colorado — with a to-be-determined tour player — this year. But beyond that, one of the game’s all-time greats will be coming to the Centennial State to participate in an event that will be different than usual and bigger in scope.
Annika Sorenstam — who won the first of her 72 LPGA Tour titles (third most all-time) at the 50th U.S. Women’s Open, held at The Broadmoor in 1995 — has agreed to return to the Colorado Springs resort to participate in the “CoBank PEAK Performers” event on Aug. 23.
On that day, she’ll play a round of golf at the East Course with nine selected First Tee members (six holes each with three threesomes). Sorenstam, a national spokesperson for The First Tee, also will have a breakfast meeting with the kids. (Sorenstam is pictured above with two kids at the 2013 Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club in Parker.)
Eight of those nine First Tee members will be selected from the eight First Tee regions in the continental U.S., with the final participant coming from The First Tee of GVR. Applicants are limited to kids age 14-18.
“The impetus (for the event) came from last year with Mark O’Meara coming to The Broadmoor” for a First Tee exhibition, said Kevin Laura, CEO of The First Tee of GVR and of the Colorado Open Golf Foundation. “It made a big impact on Mark and on the kids. CoBank got great feedback and The Broadmoor is such a great setting. (CoBank officials) said afterward they want something bigger and broader after what we’ve done the last two years.
“The Broadmoor liked this idea and The First Tee thought it was a great idea. And Annika loves The Broadmoor. Besides winning a U.S. Women’s Open there, she vacations there” on occasion.
CoBank, The Broadmoor and The First Tee of GVR are co-sponsoring and hosting “CoBank PEAK Performers”.
First Tee kids from across the country — boys with handicaps of 10 or less and girls with 12 or less — can apply if they’re interested in playing with Sorenstam as part of the all-expenses-covered event, which runs Aug. 21-24. Included for the participants will be three nights at The Broadmoor. The First Tee is expecting 200 or more applications.
Participants will be chosen on the basis of an essay, their answers to various questions, their golf resume, their schoolwork and activities, and letters of recommendation. The First Tee national home office will forward worthy candidates to the Colorado Open Golf Foundation selection committee, which will pick the winners and announce them on June 27.
Besides playing with Sorenstam, the participants will spend a day visiting some of the top landmarks in the Colorado Springs area, including the Air Force Academy.