A dream come true for 16-year-old Harvey golfer Angelica Harris perhaps is the next step on a road that ultimately may lead to her ultimate dream.
Harris will compete in the 2014 Nature Valley First Tee Open on Friday through Sunday at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. The 54-hole event is an official stop on the Champions Tour and will be televised all three days on the Golf Channel.
She is one of 81 junior golfers ages 14-18 from The First Tee program selected by a national panel of judges that evaluated playing ability and comprehension of the life skills and character education learned through her involvement with The First Tee.
Peter Mata of The First Tee of East Baton Rouge Parish also has been selected to play in the event.
Each junior golfer will be paired with Champions Tour players and 162 amateurs as they compete for the pro-junior title. Two-time Nature Valley First Tee winner and defending champion Kirk Triplett, plus Charles Schwab Cup contenders Jay Haas and Kenny Perry and numerous World Golf Hall of Fame members are scheduled to compete.
“I’m really excited to be playing two of the best golf courses in the United States at Pebble Beach and Poppy Hills,’’ said Harris, a fledgling member of The First Tee of New Orleans since 2004. “I’m also a little nervous to be inside the ropes with the pros and feel like what they feel like every weekend.
“It means a lot to me to be picked by a national board and I’m proud to be representing The First Tee of New Orleans.’’
Harris is following in the footsteps of older siblings Timothy and Pearlissa, who also represented The First Tee of New Orleans and played in the Champions Nature Valley Open in 2009 and 2011 while students at Jesuit and McGehee, respectively.
For Harris, playing in the Nature Valley Open is a culmination of a summer golf whirlwind that has seen her attend the First Tee Training Program at the International Junior Golf Academy at Hilton Head Island, S.C., in June and the First Tee Life Skills and Leadership Academy at San Diego State University in July.
“It’s been a big summer for her,’’ said Chip Patterson, executive director of The First Tee of New Orleans. “For her to have won some local tournaments and then to be recognized nationally and now to get this opportunity to go out to Pebble Beach and be on the Golf Channel with pros from the Champions Tour, that’s a life-changing kind of experience right there.’’
It’s the kind of experience that Harris hopes will earn a NCAA Division 1 golf scholarship in the near future and eventually a spot on the LPGA Tour.
A student at Louise S. McGehee School where she maintained a 3.7 GPA from pre-K through the 10th grade, Harris decided to be schooled at home this year so she could devote more time and energy on making improvements in her game.
“This is by her choice; that’s the major thing,’’ said her father, Timothy Harris. “I had nothing to do with it. I don’t ask her to practice. She has taken it upon herself to do all the things that are necessary for her to get to the next level.
“’This is the year she really wants to refine her skills and technique. That’s one of the reasons she chose to be home schooled because she wants to work as hard as she can. She realizes she has a great opportunity to play for a very strong Division 1 school if she can maximize her potential.’’
Mr. Harris said he purposely has refrained from discussing the prospects of turning pro with his daughter because “that’s not a discussion for her dad. That is a discussion she has to have with herself. Playing golf professionally is a different ball game.’’
If and when that day comes remains to be seen. Meantime, Harris said she will continue to work on lowering her 3-handicap and prepare for whatever tomorrow brings.
“It would be amazing to play professionally,’’ Harris said. “It depends on how good I get. If I do get good enough, yes, I will give it a shot. But that’s a difficult question to answer right now because I want to go to college. I guess if I get good enough, I might.
“But I want to go to college.’’