On Tuesday August 2nd, a group of participants from The First Tee of Massachusetts met at MGA Links in Norton to begin their journey to The First Tee Northeast Regional Challenge.
This year’s event was hosted by The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia and featured 12 chapters from the Northeast Region of The First Tee taking part in a 3-day golf & life skills event with an array of additional activities for participants and team chaperones.
Team members from The First Tee of Massachusetts were Louis Dion (Norton, MA), Alex DiMartino (Mansfield, MA), Torrie Tamash (Barnstable, MA) and Jillian Barend (North Attleboro, MA) and they were led by the father-daughter duo of Tom & Cora Bernier.
Dion, 18 years old, is a recent graduate of Norton High School (will attend Bryant University) and has been a participant in The First Tee at MGA Links for nearly 10 years.
“I’ve had the chance to attend The First Tee Life Skills & Leadership Academy last year in Minnesota and now to have one more First Tee opportunity like this in Philadelphia is something I will always remember,” said Dion.
Barend and DiMartino made up the participants in the 12-14 year old division of the Bay State contingent.
DiMartino, a student at Xaverian Brothers High School, and Barend, a student at North Attleboro Middle School, are both participants from MGA Links.
For Tamash, a long-time First Tee participant from Hyannis GC with First Tee coach David Donnellan, the Regional Challenge was a thrill.
“It’s crazy that this is an opportunity we can all have,” said Tamash. “I couldn’t imagine how great this experience has been.”
After arriving in Philadelphia and checking into the team accommodations at Villanova University, the first day featured a round of golf and barbeque at Walnut Lane Golf Club followed by a welcome reception for all of the participating teams. As part of the event’s overall scoring system, all participants took a written life skills & golf knowledge assessment upon arrival at the event that made up 50% of their score.
Day 2 of this journey featured the main event – the golf tournament held at Merion Golf Club, site of the 2013 US Open.
Consisting of two age groups – 12-14 & 15-18 – participants competed in a Stableford scoring event. After the golf and points were compiled, The First Tee of Massachusetts finished 4th out of 12 teams. The day concluded with dinner and a trip to the Philadelphia Phillies game for all of the participating chapters.
For Tom Bernier, the 2014 Andrew J. Blau MGA Volunteer of the Year, being at the Regional Challenge was fulfilling in its own right.
“I’m so proud to be here as one of the team chaperones with these kids,” said Bernier. “I’ve seen the positive impact that The First Tee has had on my own two kids over the last 10-12 years and so to be able to share this incredible experience with these kids here at Merion Golf Club is truly awesome.”
The final day of the event featured a trip to the US Women’s Amateur Championship at Rolling Green Golf Club. From there, the kids and chaperones prepared for the long journey home to Massachusetts.
“The success and the memories that these kids experienced on this trip just reinforces that our program is making a positive impact on kids and families,” said Joe McCabe, Executive Director of The First Tee of Massachusetts. “I appreciate the enthusiasm of all of our participants statewide and the passion of our coaches and volunteers.”
Congrats to Louis, Alex, Jillian and Torrie for a job well done in Philadelphia!