Insider's Perspective: Playing with a Ryder Cup alum at the Coca-Cola Champions Challenge

Categories: I am the First Tee, Life Skills, PURE Insurance Championship
Participants in the Coca-Cola Champions Challenge (L to R):  Mable Wong; Sarah Harrison; Jason Liu; Jon Paul Ray; Patrick Abadilla; Ariana Saenz
Participants in the Coca-Cola Champions Challenge (L to R): Mable Wong; Sarah Harrison; Jason Liu; Jon Paul Ray; Patrick Abadilla; Ariana Saenz

Six lucky participants from six different chapters of The First Tee were paired with six Champions Tour players, all with prior Ryder Cup experience, for the 2014 Coca-Cola Champions Challenge. Played at Pebble Beach Golf Links, this five-hole, modified scotch format charity competition has a purse of $40,000 which is donated to the player’s designated chapter of The First Tee. Read below for participant Jason Liu’s inside experience!

By Jason Liu
Participant, The First Tee of Connecticut

Jason Liu, junior golfer from The First Tee of Connecticut
Jason Liu, junior golfer from The First Tee of Connecticut

The sounds of waves crashing against the 18th hole filled my mind as I watched the legendary Tom Lehman hit his drive down the middle. Just a few weeks ago, I found out that I was going to play in the Coca-Cola Champions Challenge. I was really excited to represent my chapter, The First Tee of Connecticut, and wondered who would be my Champions Tour partner.

Today, I played alongside some of the greatest golfers of the game. I had the amazing opportunity to play with Tom Lehman, who played on three Ryder Cup teams as well as captaining the USA Team in 2006, as we competed with five other participants in a skins match.

Nature Valley First Tee Open participants Jordan Powell and Jason Liu at the Welcome Reception
Nature Valley First Tee Open participants Jordan Powell and Jason Liu at the Welcome Reception

I was definitely nervous on the first tee, but all the pros created a nice, relaxed atmosphere which helped me to play well. Mr. Lehman and I hit some great shots out there and kept the match going all the way to the last hole.

On 18, Mr. Lehman hit a beautiful drive down the middle of the fairway. The ball rolled and finished just behind the first tree in the middle of the fairway. Mr. Lehman and his caddie helped me strategize the correct shot. They both told me, though, that I should hit a shot that is comfortable for me. So, I attempted to hit a cut 3-wood, a shot that I love to hit. The ball started over the ocean and began to cut back to the fairway, only to land in the fairway bunker on the left. I was a little disappointed, but Mr. Lehman and his caddie were impressed and commended me on the shot. I immediately felt better and we finished the hole with a par.

Champions Tour player Tom Lehman hits a shot out of the bunker at the Coca-Cola Champions Challenege
Champions Tour player Tom Lehman hits a shot out of the bunker at the Coca-Cola Champions . Photo by Michael Weinstein.

I am definitely grateful and honored to have this experience. To be walking and playing with the legends of the game at a legendary golf course is absolutely incredible. I wouldn’t believe it if I was told that I would play Pebble Beach with legends like Tom Lehman when I am just 15 years old.

A huge thanks goes out to Coca-Cola and Nature Valley for making this event possible. Without your generous support, I would not have this great opportunity and experience.

Find out which team won the Coca-Cola Champions Challenge!

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