Naples/Collier Chapter Defends First Tee Champions Challenge Crown
By Zach Sepanik
NAPLES, Fla. – Last year, the team of Julian Alonso and Ty Kaufman led the First Tee – Naples/Collier chapter to victory in the Golf to Paradise – First Tee Champions Challenge. This year, it was Julian’s sister’s turn for the spotlight as Amelia Alonso and Ariana Petrovic captured an 18-stroke win to defend the title for the First Tee’s local southwest Florida chapter.
“It’s great to defend the title and I feel very accomplished,” said Amelia. “I came here to win and that’s what happened. I’m really glad that Ariana and I did it together. It was a memorable event that I will remember for a long time. I also really enjoyed meeting competitors from other states.”
In partnership with the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau, and taking place in conjunction with the Chubb Classic presented by SERVPRO, the 27-hole competition featured 10 participants representing five First Tee chapters including Naples, Chicago, Philadelphia, Massachusetts and Metropolitan New York. On Monday, the teams played a scramble format at Tiburón Golf Club (Gold Course), followed by a modified alternate shot on Tuesday at Royal Poinciana Golf Club (Pines Course) before concluding on Wednesday with four-ball at The TwinEagles Club (Talon Course).
Alonso and Petrovic combined to shoot 34-29-35 for a winning total of 98 strokes.
“I think we had outstanding teamwork and communication. That allowed us to do so well,” Petrovic said. “It was a lot of fun. We had a great time on the course, as well as with all the activities they had planned for us off the course.”
The team of Keira Joshi and David Jope representing the Massachusetts chapter earned runner-up honors with a score of 116 strokes, while Aiden Palmer and Ryan Carmody of the Metropolitan New York chapter (126) finished third. Philadelphia (131) and Chicago (148) rounded out the participating chapters.
Earlier in the week, the First Tee students also participated in a special First Tee Champions Challenge Clinic presented by Porsche Naples with PGA TOUR Champions player Scott Verplank. They also participated in a volunteer clean-up service at the S.S. Jolley Bridge near Marco Island.
With the 2023 Golf to Paradise – First Tee Champions Challenge in the books, the First Tee students will now get to take in the Chubb Classic, contested Friday through Sunday at Tiburón Golf Club.
“It’s really special. Not only do the kids come down to Naples and golf, but a lot have never traveled outside of their home state to golf. They grow as athletes and individuals,” said Lexi Wood, Executive Director of the First Tee Champions Challenge. “They don’t know anyone when they arrive. By the time they leave, they’re best friends. The First Tee has its core values—perseverance, integrity, honesty—and you really see these athletes display those values throughout their time in southwest Florida.”