SAN DIEGO — Pro Kids The First Tee golfers John Horvath and Lloyd Kay got an opportunity of a lifetime.
After qualifying and completing a series of interviews they were selected to compete in the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach Sept. 27 to Sept. 29.
The Nature Valley First Tee Open pairs promising youth golfers with golf professionals to compete as a team.
“It’s a real champion tour,” Todd Smith, Pro Kids director of golf, said.
The tournament allows teens to experience game travel, press conferences and playing on an unfamiliar course with small greens and strong winds.
“There’s not a lot of places to miss it or the ball is in the ocean,” Smith said.
Horvath, 16, said the time on the greens with professional golfer Jim Rutledge was invaluable.
“Being around professional Jim Rutledge of Canada and playing 11, I learned some things,” Horvath said.
Horvath said he appreciated the time that Rutledge spent talking with him on and off the course.
To qualify for the tournament, Horvath submitted golf and academic scores, answered essay questions and was interviewed.
“It was a lot to get there,” Horvath said.
Between Pro Kids and his high school golf team Horvath plays in about 40 tournaments a year.
“He is the No. 1 player at Crawford High School,” Smith said. “He qualified for the National Junior Golf Tournament. He shoots close to par.”
Horvath joined Pro Kids The First Tee in 2007 and has played golf seriously for three years.
“I learned to play golf mostly at The First Tee,” Horvath said. “My dad taught me lot about golf as well.”
Horvath said he puts in about an hour of practice a day between practicing at Pro Kids, hitting balls in his backyard and playing a round of golf on the weekend.
Membership at Pro Kids allows Horvath to play on 100 local golf courses for $2 to $5.
He said he competes against the course and strives to play a consistent game.
His strength is his wedge game, which he gets a lot of practice on at the Pro Kids 70 yard drives.
“I like the individuality about it,” Horvath said. “It’s all up to me.”
Horvath said the core value of perseverance has helped him in golf and in life.
“Not every shot you hit is perfect,” Horvath said. “Sometimes you have to fight through the hole.”
He added perseverance also helps him master a challenging subject in school.
Horvath said self-confidence is another core value he learned through playing golf.
“I use to be a shy person, now I am more confident,” Horvath said. “I built some great relationships.”
Smith has witnessed that change.
“He has grown as person,” Smith said.
Horvath’s future plans are to play golf in college with the dream of playing as a professional. He also has an interest in sports broadcasting.
Pro Kids has 1,800 youth members at its two locations in City Heights and Oceanside The program builds character through teaching kids age 7 to 17 the game of golf.