First Tee golfers honored at annual banquet

2012 First Tee Player of the Year Lester Bell Jr. was the keynote speaker Thursday at the 2nd Annual First Tee of Greater Tyler Awards Banquet. Bell, a senior at Grand Prairie High School, was also named Royal Bank of Scotland Student Achiever Winner. (Troy Jackson | Courtesy)

As a youngster sharing a two-bedroom apartment with his eight siblings, mother and alcoholic father, Lester Bell Jr. would look out the window across the street at Cedar Creek Golf Course.

"I would picture myself being on the other side of that fence," Bell said. "At age 13 I didn't have anyone to show (me the right way) to live. I was not setting a good example for my younger brothers.

"I moved in with my cousin and since we couldn't get jobs, I would steal for food and clothing and continuing to steal so I could sell stuff and get a profit. These things allowed me to get in trouble with the law and send me down a path with no chance in life."

Golf and the First Tee of Greater Dallas gave Bell an opportunity to change that and he grabbed it. Now a senior at South Grand Prairie High School, Bell is the 2012 First Tee Player of the Year and was keynote speaker for the 2013 First Tee of Greater Tyler Awards Banquet Thursday at the Tyler Rose Garden.

"It's amazing how nine core values can change a person's life," Bell told those in attendance. "The first tee gave me a (blueprint) of life skills that helped shape my thoughts, my decision-making and my golf game, and most importantly my life."

This year's banquet also recognized players, volunteers and community partners with nine awards that represent the nine core values of the First Tee. 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.

Timothy Pridgen was named All Around Participant of the Year for his play on the Summer First Tee Tournament Series.

Robby Cano was posthumously awarded the Junior Coach of the Year with executive director Michael Harrison saying of the high school junior who passed away in September, "Robby was a truly special young man."

The First Tee of Greater Tyler, which was started in 2011, has grown to 300 participants.


2nd Annual First Tee of Greater Tyler Awards Banquet

All-Around Participant of the Year — Timothy Pridgen

Junior Coach of the Year — Robby Cano

Players of the Year — Sidney Robertson, 7-9 Girls; Lerow Sparrow, 7-9 Boys; Emma Lindsey, 10-11 Girls; Ethan Dowling, 10-11 Boys; Annaka Watts, 12-14 Girls; Carson Hiltpold, 12-14 Boys; Cole Wilkins, 15-18 Boys.

Nine Core Values Award Winners


Respect — Hugo Cano

Judgment — Jim Hurley

Courtesy — Troy Jackson


Perseverance — Aaron Jackson

Confidence — Jacob Beaumont

Integrity — Rachel Pridgen


Responsibility — Hollytree Men's Golf Association

Sportsmanship — Pro Darrell Chase, Peach Tree-Oak Hurst Golf Course

Honesty — Dyann Kemp, Caldwell Elementary

Thank You Award — Walter Wilhelmi



Recommended For You