It’s like a high school kid getting to race a car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or pitch a game at Yankee Stadium.
Columbus senior Francisco de la Torre has been selected to compete with pro golfers on the Champions Tour at Pebble Beach on the weekend of Sept. 26.
Hugging the rugged coastline and offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, Pebble Beach is regarded as one of the most scenic golf courses in the world.
But there’s more to it than that.
“It’s one of those courses that every golfer dreams about playing,” de la Torre said. “It seems like every big name in golf has had a dramatic moment there. When I play that course, I will feel like one of them, I guess.”
De la Torre, who will travel to California for the event with his parents and younger brother, said he has a lot of emotions when he contemplates what he is about to encounter.
“I’m so excited,” he said. “I went to Pebble Beach once to visit, and I told myself that I would do anything I could to play there.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’m already feeling the nerves now. I can’t imagine how I will feel when I get to the first tee at Pebble.”
De la Torre won the opportunity to play at the event — which is called the Nature Valley First Tee Open — because of his academic success (a 5.1 GPA as a junior), his golf skill and his substantial community service, which has centered around his effort to save American family farms from extinction.
A national panel of judges sorted through hundreds of applicants to select 80 high school kids to pair up with professionals in a pro-am format the Pebble Beach event, which is televised internationally by The Golf Channel.
De La Torre is the only golfer from Miami-Dade and Broward counties selected this year, although others have made it in the past, including Melissa Edmonson, who recently graduated from the University of Virginia.
Edmonson, who played high school golf at Coral Reef and Westminster Christian, called her experience at Pebble Beach “the best week of my life.”
She played with one of the biggest names in golf history, Greg Norman, whom she still keeps in touch with, and she remembers getting putting lessons from Gary Player, who preached to her the importance of staying fit.
“The scenery at Pebble is absolutely stunning,” said Edmonson, 22, who majored in political science and media studies. “You are right on the ocean, and the course was immaculate.
“But at the end of the day, the biggest thing I took away was the people I met and the connections I made.”
Edmonson doesn’t remember what place she finished, but she recalls her birdie on the famed seventh hole, and she can still picture the high-five Norman gave her to celebrate.
Plus, she has the DVD to prove it.
As for advice for de la Torre, Edmonson said the Columbus senior should talk to as many people as he can.
“I remember asking: ‘How do you deal with nerves?’ And, ‘Can you help me with my chipping?’ ” Edmonson said. “When I got home, I wrote about 50 thank-you letters, and I got a lot of responses.”
De la Torre, who wants to study business and finance, said he is looking forward to having his own conversations with the pros.
“These are people who do what you love to do, and they do it professionally,” de la Torre said. “They have also been through life — a lot of them have their own businesses. I’m excited to learn from them.”
De la Torre, who is Columbus’ third-ranked golfer and helped his team finish eighth at state last year, said he realizes that a lot of people would love to be in his golf shoes on Sept. 26.
“All the [Columbus] football players say they wish they could miss a week of school to go play Pebble,” de la Torre said with a laugh. “And a few of my teachers have offered to come along as my caddie.”
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