Nocatee’s Grace Richards has played the picturesque Pebble Beach Golf Links on a simulator, but now she will get the chance to experience it firsthand after being selected to represent the First Tee of North Florida at the PURE Insurance Championship Sept. 20-26.
“The journey has been quite a whirlwind and it’s honestly all because of First Tee,” Richards said.
Richards was introduced to golf at 11 years old after joining the First Tee of North Florida and taking lessons.
“I didn’t really get into it until I started bonding with the coaches and started making friends,” Richards said. “I began to think ‘I can really see myself doing this,’ so in middle school I joined the team and also did all four years of high school.”
She graduated from Nease High a couple of months ago and will be continuing her golf career at Flagler College.
Richards remains actively involved with First Tee as a coach with the organization and has made it a point to make sure she provides the same the same support she received when she was first starting out.
“It’s a really good feeling to know that I not only improved their golf game, but also made a positive impact on them as a whole,” Richards said.
She submitted her application in early May to the national board of judges, which consist of a bunch of coaches and higher-ups at First Tee, a nonprofit organization in conjunction with the PGA Tour that teaches children life skills through the game of golf.
“It took about a month or more to find out the results, and my (North Florida) chapter knew before I even did,” Richards said. “They surprised me with the news when I was taking a tour of the PGA headquarters with a bunch of other First Tee families.”
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan was on hand and broke the news to not only Richards, but also Matthew French and Madelyn Campbell.
“It just blew our mind,” Richards said. “We were just so ecstatic about it. That was one of the best ways we could have found out.”
Richards will be one of 81 First Tee members to take part in the PURE Insurance Championship, which is a PGA Tour Champions event.
The First Tee golfers will be paired with professional players from the PGA Tour Champions circuit and will play 18 holes in groups of four.
“It’s all about building those connections and getting to know the players,” Richards said. “I will be saying hi to as many people as possible.”
Players will not only play Pebble Beach but will also have the opportunity to play Spyglass Hill Golf Course, which is part of the Pebble Beach Resorts family.
“We’re planning to get there a little bit early to get used to the time change and the altitude,” Richards said.
The chance to play Pebble Beach is something Richards has been thinking about for some time now after being accepted to play it a year ago but not being able to because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve had a year to process it, and I’m just so ready to go,” Richards said.
Holes seven and 18 are two holes she is anxious to play after having heard so much about them from others.
“I had a friend go to Pebble two years ago and she said the wind was crazy on those two holes,” Richards said. “I can’t wait to experience it for myself.”