August event capitalizes on popularity of CoBank exhibitions.
By Jon Rizzi
The Broadmoor holds a special place in the heart of Annika Sorenstam. At the age of 24, the World Golf Hall of Famer won the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open—the first of her ten LPGA majors and 72 championships—at the storied Colorado Springs resort. She and her family often return to vacation.
On August 23, The Broadmoor will earn a special place in the lives of nine participants selected from The First Tee programs around the country when Sorenstam—a First Tee Spokesperson and founder of the ANNIKA Foundation—joins them for breakfast and then pairs up with three threesomes for six holes each on The Broadmoor’s East Course.
Co-sponsored and hosted by CoBank, The Broadmoor and The First Tee of Green Valley Ranch, this “CoBank PEAK Performers” event greatly expands on the exhibitions that the CoBank Colorado Open has staged for the last two years at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club. Professional golfers such as Hale Irwin, David Duval, Paula Creamer, Ryan Palmer and Lexi Thompson have shared lessons in life and golf with hundreds of local First Tee participants.
“Shortly after last year’s event with Lexi Thompson, we did a very successful event for the First Tee of Pikes Peak with Mark O’Meara at The Broadmoor,” explains Colorado Open Golf Foundation CEO Kevin Laura. “The CoBank people said they’d received great feedback, so they asked if there was any way to give these events more of a regional or national scope, since CoBank is a national company.”
The request “sparked an idea,” says Laura. He asked The First Tee national headquarters to “provide a template” to accomplish an initiative similar in scope the annual PURE Insurance Championship Impacting The First Tee at Pebble Beach.
“Instead, The First Tee said they would help orchestrate it as a national opportunity,” he marvels. “We created our own category.”
Thanks to CoBank, The Broadmoor and The First Tee of Green Valley Ranch, the inaugural “CoBank PEAK Performers” will be an all-expenses-covered event. As with the Pebble Beach tournament, First Tee kids (ages 14-18) from across the country are eligible to apply to play with Sorenstam. They need to have been in the program at least three years and have a handicap no higher than 10 (boys) and 12 (girls).
Application information is available at The First Tee chapters. The First Tee national headquarters will screen the applicants—who need to complete an essay and questionnaire, provide records of schoolwork and activities and letters of recommendation—and forward candidates to the Colorado Open Golf Foundation selection committee.
“It gets the kids into the practice of applying for things, writing essays and asking for letters of recommendation,” Laura says. “If they want to go to college, they have to get used to doing that.”
The committee will select one winner from each of The First Tee’s eight U.S. regions—including the one with Colorado in it. The ninth will be an applicant from The First Tee at Green Valley Ranch. Only four percent of the projected 200 applicants will be selected.
“Most of these kids have never been to a five-star anything,” Laura says. “The winners get three nights at The Broadmoor (August 21-23, with departure on the 24th), one round on the golf course, a tour of Colorado Springs landmarks. And they get to play with one of the greatest players ever.”
Laura emphasizes that the “CoBank PEAK Performers” event won’t preclude further CoBank Colorado Open-sponsored exhibitions like those featuring the likes of Lexi Thompson. “We’re going to do at least one or two this year,” he says. Although he hasn’t inked anyone yet, he says, “We’re all about getting a pro with real star power.”
Colorado AvidGolfer Magazine is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via coloradoavidgolfer.com.