First Tee of Greater Tyler: A week to remember for Tyler-area teens

CINDY WATTS/COURTESY EAST TEXAS WAS represented in the PGA Tour Champions’ 2017 PURE Insurance Championship Sept. 18-24 in Pebble Beach, Calif. From the First Tee of Greater Tyler were (from left) Annaka Watts, a sophomore at Tyler Lee High School, Christian Sarran, program director, and Walker LaRue, a senior at Whitehouse High School.


Pebble Beach Golf Links is one of the most beautiful courses in the world, and it's certainly on a golfer's bucket list.

Two Tyler-area teens and their First Tee of Greater Tyler program director Christian Sarran got the thrill of a lifetime recently.

Annaka Watts, a sophomore at Tyler Lee High School, and Walker LaRue, a senior at Whitehouse High School, participated in the 2017 PURE Insurance Championship, an official PGA Tour Champions event held at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, California.

Watts and LaRue were selected by a national panel of judges based on their playing ability and comprehension of the life skills and core values learned through their involvement with the First Tee of Greater Tyler.

Watts played alongside pro Tom Jenkins, while LaRue played with pro Miguel Angel Martin.

Their teams also included two different amateurs from the business world on each of the first two days of the tournament. The event was televised nationally on the Golf Channel.

Both Watts and LaRue finished 8-under par and tied for 32nd place overall. Watts also got to visit with pro Esteban Toledo, of Los Cabos, Mexico, during breakfast one morning.

"That was pretty cool. He's pretty fun," said Watts. Toledo was a member of the PGA Tour in 1994 and 1998 to 2004.

LaRue was in awe of Pebble Beach.

"This place is beautiful," he said. "I love the people out here. They are very nice and they are very kind to us in everything they do for us."

Added Sarran, "I really enjoyed seeing our participants display their best game and character in front of PGA Tour legends and business executives. They really set the bar high for future participants to get selected."

The First Tee of Greater Tyler is one of 155 chapters around the country and in select international locations. Serving the Tyler area since 2011, more than 10,500 young people have been involved in 2017 through chapter programs and the First Tee National School Program, which is in four school districts and up to 30 local elementary schools.

The golf-based programs are focused on building character through the First Tee Nine Core Values: honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.

To learn more about the First Tee of Greater Tyler, visit

The mission statement of the First Tee of Greater Tyler is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.




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Sports Editor

I am a native Tylerite and I grew up reading the Tyler Morning Telegraph and The Tyler Courier-Times. My parents took both the morning and afternoon papers. I came to work here 35 years ago at the age of 23, right after college.