2017 Golf to Paradise – First Tee Champions Challenge Participant Bios

The First Tee of Atlanta

Alejandra Ayala, 17 years old

Junior, Alpharetta High School

“I’m 17 years old and a junior from Alpharetta High School. I have been playing golf for 8 years and I’ve won several junior tournaments. At this time, I am looking to play college golf and I am working very hard to achieve this goal. Being a member of The First Tee of Atlanta has given me the life skills and tools I’ll need to accomplish my goals. It has also given me the tremendous opportunity to compete at the highest level. For example, 3 years ago I played with Rory Mclroy in Quail Hollow at the Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am. Just this past September, I was able to participate at the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. It was one of my proudest moments, as I was the first participant in our chapter’s history to make the cut!

 

Jazmyne Everett,16 years old

Junior, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School

I” am 16 years old and a junior at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School. I began playing the wonderful game of golf at 6 years old. I’ve always enjoyed going places and following my older brother around as a child, so whenever he and my father would go golfing I would joyfully tag along. After joining them on their golf trips, I eventually developed a love for golf; I didn’t want to stop playing it! My dad, seeing the love and fascination I had for golf, registered me into The First Tee of Atlanta with my brother. I’ve been in the First Tee program for about 10 years now. At the age of 12, I began playing in Atlanta Junior Golf tournaments and also in a Canongate league. Some of the achievements I’ve earned are: 1st Place Winner in Gabrielson Cup in 2016, I placed 3rd in my first Atlanta Junior Golf championship in 2012, I’ve helped take my high school’s golf team to state every year since my freshman year. I love playing the humbling game of golf, because it allows me to meet different people and form lasting relationships with them while also being out in nature, which I adore, playing a sport that demands an active, creative mind.”

 

 

The First Tee of Baltimore

Kendel Abrams, 16 years old      

Junior, Susquehannock High School

Kendel is a 16 year old student and dynamic athlete.  She is the only female starting on her high school varsity golf team.  Recently, Kendel was a County medalist and played in the Division High School Golf Championship.  Highly commended for her superb abilities, Kendel was named to the Honorable Mention during the fall of 2015.  With a 4.36 GPA, she is on the the Distinguished Honor Roll and a member of First Tee of Greater Baltimore.  Kendel has also played in junior golf tournaments in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and California.  Kendel developed a program called “Grasp Girls with Golf” three years ago to get more girls playing golf.  This program also has other benefits such as encouraging girls to stay fit, to secure possible job and scholarship opportunities, as well as to develop a great network.  Recently her program was given a grant by Women’s Sports Foundation founded by tennis legend Billie Jean King.  Selected by First Tee of Baltimore, Kendel had the distinct pleasure to meet President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House for the Presidents Cup Reception in 2014.  In addition to golf, Kendel plays basketball.  In the future, Kendel hopes to travel to a variety of golf courses around the world and gain a scholarship to a great university.

 

Jairus Gaines, 16 years old

Junior, Gilman School

Jairus started playing golf in 2001 alongside his sister who is also in The First Tee program. Jairus has spent a total of four years at The First Tee of Greater Baltimore. He is currently an Eagle student with the program. Jairus played in his first golf tournament, the Jimmy Flammer Diper Divison, in 2002 and placed second. On April 12, 2008, he recorded his first hole in one at Geneva Farms Golf Course. It was a Par 3, 92 yards. “I used my six iron and the ball soared right into the hole!”

 

The First Tee of Chicago

Chloe Morrissey, 14 years old 

Freshman, Warren Township High School

“My name is Chloe Morrissey and I am 14 years old from Gurnee, Illinois. I started with the First Tee of Greater Chicago at Foss Park when I was 7 years old. I began golfing at age 5 when I was given a set of golf clubs for Christmas from my parents. Since taking my first swing, I haven’t stopped.  This year was my freshmen year at Warren Township High school and I played at the Varsity Level.  I continue to play locally during the summer in IJGA tournaments and practice as much as I can all year long.  Now I am currently volunteering with the First Tee of Greater Chicago with my first coach, Cole Hyland. I feel so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to give back to the program where I first started.  I have many dreams and aspirations for my future; I plan to attend college and play college golf. Another dream of mine is to become an entrepreneur and play professional in the LPGA. I will always be thankful to the First Tee of Greater Chicago and I plan to stay a part of it in any way that I can.”

 

 

Raquel Simpson, 14 years old

Freshman, Walter Payton College Prep High School

“My name is Raquel Simpson. I started playing golf when I was 9 years old because my dad introduced it to me out of the blue. I picked it up quickly, joined The First Tee of Greater Chicago, and started rapidly improving ever since. I also enjoy the game. Through The First Tee, I have had access to a lot of once in a lifetime opportunities and unforgettable experiences. I also learned a lot of skills and important tips to not only help me in golf, but to guide me towards a great future. The First Tee has created a safe environment and a second family for me. As for the future, I hope a golf scholarship is in sight and possibly a career involving golf.  I hope players behind me are fortunate enough to experience what I was able to at The First Tee.”

 

The First Tee of Cleveland

Ben Cawley, 16 years old    

Junior, Shaker Heights High School

I have been playing golf since I joined The First Tee of Cleveland at age 10. I currently play on my high school’s varsity golf team and aim to captain it next season. I am currently in the ACE Level and have attended the Life Skills & Leadership Academy in 2015 and the IJGA this past summer. I hope to keep growing my game throughout my junior and senior year with the eventual goal of playing golf at a collegiate level.

 

 

Nathan Lewandowski, 16 years old

Junior, Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin High School

“I have been a part of the First Tee of Cleveland for 6 years and am now an Ace level participant.  I enjoy coaching the younger participants at The First Tee and spending time with my friends and the amazing coaches.  At school, I compete on the varsity golf team and enjoy golfing in my free time at my local golf course. I am a caddie at a local country club and a cart boy at another golf club. I participate on the Science Olympiad team for my school and love doing anything related to chemistry. My freshman year I played on the Junior Varsity soccer team and I will be playing on the tennis team for my third year. My senior year I plan to try out for the NDCL Varsity golf team one last time.”

 

The First Tee of Naples/Collier

Matt Ariza, 16 years old

Junior, Gulf Coast High School

Matthew Ariza is from Naples, FL. He is currently a junior at Gulf Coast High School and has been involved in The First Tee program since 2010. Matthew attended The First Tee College Prep Academy in Reno, NV, during the summer of 2016. He has been playing varsity golf since he was in the sixth grade. At his current high school, he and his team have gone back to back to the Florida state high school tournament. In 2016 he was named All Conference and 2nd team All Area. Aside from golf, he enjoys watching football and playing basketball. He also coaches his younger brother’s football team and works with his sister helping her become a tournament ready golfer.

 

 

Makenzie Hotchkiss, 17 years old

Senior, Barron Collier High School

“My name is Makenzie Hotchkiss and I am a senior at Barron Collier High School, I have been on the varsity girls golf team all four years and am currently in the running for the Naples Daily News player of the year. I have luckily been a apart of the First Tee for ten years now and have successfully reached the ace level. The First Tee has brought me so many significant opportunities such as the unbelievable experience to play at the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach and the 2015 Perfect Sense Pro-Am teed off at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club. My favorite First Tee fire value is confidence because positivity is the most important factor in my game, First Tee has taught me that if I believe I can do something I will achieve it.”

 

 

The First Tee of Northwest Arkansas

Brinkley Beever, 16 years old

Junior, Siloam Springs High School

Brinkley Beever is an Ace level participant with The First Tee of Northwest Arkansas where she has been a member since 2009. The First Tee Program has provided her many wonderful opportunities. She attended the Life Skills and Leadership Academy in Minneapolis this past summer, and participated in the Walmart NWA LPGA Championship as a caddy to Stacy Lewis in the Pro-Am and as a Course Reporter for The First Tee where she had the honor of interviewing Lydia Ko, Yani Tseng and Gerina Piller. Brinkley has played on her high school varsity team all three years and was selected as the NWA News Media Girls Newcomer of the year as a freshman. She earned All-Conference and All-State honors her Sophomore and Junior year and led her team to a Conference win this past season. Individually she qualified for the Overall State Tournament where she finished 13th.  Brinkley plans on attending college on a golf scholarship majoring in Communications with an emphasis in Sports Broadcasting. Until then she will continue honing her skills and working hard to be selected to represent The First Tee of NWA for the 2017 PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach.

 

 

Dalton McGinnis, 14 years old

Freshman, Deer High School

“My name is Dalton McGinnis.  I am 14 years old and a Freshman attending Deer High School, in Deer, Arkansas.  I have been playing golf since I was 5, and I am starting my 4th year with the First Tee of NWA.  In that time, I have achieved ACE level.  My favorite core value is Confidence.  Because of the First Tee, I can talk and express myself like I never could before.  I enjoy playing golf, from games with my friends, all the way to the overall state finals.  I love watching the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Cavaliers.  I have competed in the Optimist International Tournament at PGA National.  In my first year of eligibility for high school, I was the District gold medalist and the State bronze medalist.  I really look forward to competing in this event and hope for more opportunities in the future with the First Tee.”

 

 

The First Tee of Philadelphia

Leonard Gipson, 15 years old 

Freshman, Father Judge High School

Lenny is a freshman at Father Judge High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and currently on the varsity golf team. Early on, I enjoyed the feeling of being outside with my dad and just having the golf clubs in my hand. My parents tell me that I started hitting golf balls about the same time I started to walk. Along the way, I began attending golf camps with the Police Athletic League (PAL) and now The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia. At each level I was learning not only the game but the importance of integrity, honesty, and respect. I enjoy golf more and more each year. I always look forward to competing at The First Tee, my high school matches, or just being able to outdrive my Dad. Equally so, in the summer I enjoy volunteering at the camps for our younger golfers at The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia. I am very lucky to be able to give back what has already been given to me, while still being able to learn at each opportunity.

 

 

Riley Quartermain, 13 years old

8th Grade, Haverford Middle School

“I have been playing golf ever since my Dad introduced me to the game when I was five years old. He would always take me to the driving range and we would work on my golf swing while also having fun. When I was younger my favorite part of playing golf was riding in the golf carts and eating snacks. Then I joined The First Tee of Triad in North Carolina, who taught me the basic fundamentals of golf along with life-skills. My interest in the game developed more when I started playing in tournaments when I was around ten years old. I recently moved to Pennsylvania and am now a member of The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia in Eagle level. Some of the highlights of my game were playing Merion West when I moved to Philadelphia, and shooting even par on 9 holes for my first time last summer. I am currently in the 8th grade at Haverford Middle School and looking forward to playing on the high school team next year. I will keep working hard at my golf game so I can one day hopefully play in college. I am very excited to go to Naples and represent The First Tee of Greater Philadelphia. I am looking forward to meeting kids and having fun playing golf.”

 

 

The First Tee of Pittsburgh

Madison Bartone, 15 years old

Sophomore, Mount Lebanon High School

“I’m Madison I am a 10th grader at Mount Lebanon High School in Mount Lebanon. My favorite subject is history. I danced for 13 years of my life, and I’m also a world champion baton twirler. I now spend most of my time on the course and 2-3 days a week at The First Tee of Pittsburgh.”

 

Victoria Slawinski, 16 years old

Sophomore, Bethel Park High School

“I’m 16 years old.  I attend Bethel Park High School in the Pittsburgh, PA area and I am in the 10th grade.  I started golfing with The First Tee 5 1/2 years.  Thanks to my coaches, I earned a spot on my school’s Varsity golf team in my freshman year and continue to golf in a top spot.  In 2015, I participated in and won the Girls 14 and under division of The First Tee Northeast Regional Challenge.  I participate on my school’s Principal’s Advisory Council of Students, yearbook, diving, and track.  I also enjoy volunteering within my community.  My family consists of my mother, Lisa, my two cats, Pudling and Bugsy, and me.”

 

The First Tee of Roanoke Valley

Alisa Caraballo, 16 years old

Sophomore, Home Schooled

Alisa lives in Roanoke, Virginia and is sixteen years old. She enjoys golf, dance, and reading. Alisa plays in Virginia State Golf Association, Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour, College Prep Tour, and Roanoke Valley Junior Golf Tour Tournaments. She was the 2016 Roanoke Valley Junior Girls Golf Hall of Fame Player of the Year and has been on the 2015 & 2016 Roanoke Valley Junior Golf Hall of Fame High School Team. Alisa has been involved with The First Tee since age eight and recently completed the ACE Program. She enjoys helping at The First Tee with the younger children and girl golf camps throughout the year. Alisa wishes to play collegiate golf and pursuit a career in speech-language pathology.”

 

 

John Hatcher Ferguson IV, 17 years old

Junior, Franklin County High School

“I am a 17 year old junior at Franklin County High School in Rocky Mount, VA. I live in Franklin County which is known as, “The Moonshine Capital of the World.” I live with my parents, my 15 year old brother, 9 year old sister (who are also golfers) and our 2 dogs.   I have been playing golf since the age of 3, and I have been participating in The First Tee of Roanoke Valley since the age of 7, and volunteering for the last 3 years. In addition to golf, I work at the family sawmill on weekends and days off from school. I also have my own hand split fatwood kindling business. I enjoy hiking, riding my dirt bike and four-wheeler on family land and timber tracks.

This past year, I decided to use my love of golf to help raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association. I started “Birdies to Cure Alzheimers”, in honor of my grandmother, who suffers from the disease. To date I have almost $5,000 in pledges to the Alzheimer’s Assiciation. I hope to double that amount in 2017.

I made the junior varsity golf team at Franklin County High School as an 8th grader and have been a member of the Varsity golf team for the past 3 years. For three consecutive years I have been named to the All-District Team and All- Conference Team. In 2016 I was named the Virginia High School League Conference 3 Player of the Year.  And in October of 2016, I was crowned champion of the 6A Virginia High School League State Championship.”

 

The First Tee of the Triangle

Sara Allen, 17 years old

Senior, Franklin Academy High School

“Sara Allen, 17, is a Senior at Franklin Academy High School in Wake Forest, North Carolina. When her high school formed a Women’s golf team, her freshman year, Sara decided to to take up the sport. After 4 years of play Sara has competed in 3 Regional and State golf tournaments and ended her season by helping her team place second in the State. She was also a recipient of the State Sportsmanship Award. Aside from golf, Sara swims on the high school team and is the leader of Franklin Academy’s STEM Bridge Building team. After High School, Sara plans to study Engineering at NC State or University of South Carolina and major in Civil and Environmental Engineering.”

 

 

Nyilah Anderson, 17 years old

Senior, Charles E. Jordan High School

“Nyilah Anderson is a 17 year old senior at C.E Jordan High School in Durham, NC. She has enjoyed playing golf since she was 5 years old. Nyilah played three years on the men’s golf team and in 2016 Jordan formed a women’s golf team where she earned a spot in the state competition. Nyilah also enjoys being a part of the C.E Jordan concert band and marching band where she plays trombone and Baritone. After high school Nyilah hopes to compete at a collegiate level.”

 

 

The First Tee of the Twin Cities       

David Kehr, 17 years old

Senior, Highland Park Senior High School

David Kehr is from Saint Paul, MN. He is currently a senior at Highland Park Senior High School and has been involved in the First Tee program since 2009. David has attended The First Tee Life Skills and Leadership Program in 2015.  He has been a member of the Highland Scots golf team since he was in eighth grade. As back to back conference champions, David and the Scots will try to win three conference championships in his senior season. He plans on attending the University of Minnesota next year. Aside from golf, he enjoys spending time in northern Minnesota at his family’s cabin. David also enjoys coaching basketball at the local recreation center during the winter.

 

Parker Reddig, 17 years old

Senior, Shattuck-Saint Mary’s School

Parker discovered a passion and talent for the game of golf at a very young age. By the age of 4 he was hitting the links, winning local tournaments against kids twice his age. In the past 13 years, through a lot of hard work and an endless commitment for excellence, Parker has amassed an impressive junior resume on the course. Some of Parker’s most recent golf achievements include, MN Junior PGA Players’ Tour Player of thee Year, 65th US Junior Amateur Championships, 39th Junior PGA Championships, BIG I National Championship, HJGT National Championships, Mid-American Junior Golf Tour All-Midwest Team, 3 time MAJGT Minnesota Open Champion, Captain & 4 year member of SSM High School Golf Center of Excellence. Parker is currently committed to attend and play collegiate golf at Florida State University starting in the Fall of 2017. Away from the course Parker enjoys spending time with his family & friends. He also plays Basketball and is currently a member of his high school varsity team.

 

The First Tee of West Michigan

Owen Kruer, 16 years old

Sophomore, Jenison High School

Owen has seen his game blossom in the past 12 months. Working with a volunteer coach at The First Tee, Owen has gone from playing junior varsity golf at his high school as a freshman to consistently throwing down scores in the 80s last summer.

Dedicated and hyper focused, Owen looks to join his high school’s varsity team this upcoming spring. After winning a golf membership through The First Tee last summer, Owen is ready to take his first of hopefully many trips through The First Tee of West Michigan. Owen is also an Eagle Level participant of The First Tee, joining the program in 2013.

“It means so much to be chosen to represent The First Tee of West Michigan in Naples, Florida. I know this is a great opportunity…I have been preparing for months for this tournament!”

 

Dominic Luciani, 15 years old

Sophomore, East Grand Rapids High School

Golf was just a hobby for Dominic until he was enrolled in The First Tee of West Michigan two and a half years ago. Now attending his second consecutive Chubb Classic, he credits The First Tee with the development of his leadership skills and the improvement of his golf game.

Dominic made his high school varsity team as a freshman, one of the few freshman in the long and storied history of his high school’s team to do so.

This past summer Dominic advanced to the Eagle level in The First Tee, and began to volunteer coach at our summer junior golf league. He also works at The First Tee’s local headquarters, Stormy Creek Golf Course.

“I am so excited to travel to Naples and represent The First Tee of West Michigan. Having participated in last year’s event, I know a bit more about what to expect and cannot wait to return! I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”