January 18-24, 2016

The First Tee Junior Reporter Blog

Junior Course Reporter Program

Day One Blog

By Zane Rhodes

    Waking up at 6 a.m.  isn't fun in the slightest; unless of course you are about to embark on a journey filled with media passes, free food, and the opportunity to meet some of golf's biggest names.
    Our busy day started with us getting our media passes to get access to all the cool things. Once I got my picture, I was staring at a photo of me with half- closed eyes and messy hair. Not being thrilled with my photo, I knew the rest of the day would improve. I was finally ready to start my day as a junior reporter at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. 
    After my cohort Jasmine Hassan and I got our passes, we headed towards our first destination; the ShotLinks computer system that registers statistics on the course.  We learned just how much work goes into getting a simple yardage posted on TV We learned the ways these people go into preventing mistakes. For example, they have a person who walks with the players recording the position and how many shots the players took. They keep this person in check from not making an error by also having a person around each location laser the distance from each shot. If one person records a wrong amount of shots, the team in the truck quickly get to work fixing the problem. After being in this truck I realize just how much effort goes into recording the distance, and the amount of strokes.
    Once we said goodbye to the truck, we went to our first interview. This interview was with Rickie Fowler's caddie, Joe Skovron. Considering this was one of my first times interviewing a person, I was quite a bit nervous.. After asking a few generic questions, we got much more comfortable and I realized that it was like having an actual conversation. I got to ask questions about Fowler and about Joe's experiences with him.
    After being asked how he evolved into the caddie he is today and how he met Fowler, he said, "I believe that I truly have grown as a caddie and am much better now than when I first started. I have known Rickie almost all my life, we actually grew up in the same town. Being that I am a few years older than him, I have been able to see him grow in his game and am just a life-long friend of his.
    He mentioned that his most memorable time was when Fowler played in the Ryder Cup. He described it as an experience as none other. I was very excited after the interview and was obsessing about what actually just went down. After taking a quick look at the clock, we realized that Brandt Snedeker’s interview was just beginning. We dashed to the room only to find that the interview was already over. A bit disheartened about our luck, we waited in the lunch room and ate.
    After a few minutes, someone remembered that Brian Gay's interview was coming up shortly, and our spirits were boosted once more. The time finally came and we were there, sitting in the conference room with the former champion. At this point, I couldn't be happier with my day. After Jasmine put in her two cents, it was over and everyone was leaving. As we were heading to the next activity, I proposed we wait and get a picture with Brian. Everyone was game and we sat outside waiting for him to finish his important business. We finally got the opportunity to ask to get the picture and asked. He said he would be glad to and we got the snapshot with him. We thanked him and left the building.  Hardly able to contain my excitement, I asked to view the photo and just could not believe I just got a picture with such a great person.
    Then, we hit the range. Not to practice but to see the other big name practice. We showed the people our passes and got to be just behind the player. A little while into our watching, we met with someone who said he could get us an interview with some players. A minute later he was back with none other than Troy Matteson. We spoke to him about his game and about the tournament it self. I learned that he is a veteran here at the Humana Challenge, and has been on tour for nine years. He also stated that he has changed all of his clubs in the bag except one.
    A little surprised, we thanked him and wished him good luck. We were walking when we saw the local news team from what station?. We introduced ourselves and they asked us if we were willing to be interviewed. A bit taken aback, we politely accepted. It was an interesting experience to be on the other end of the spectrum. We thanked him for the interview and moved to our next destination.
    This next part was still on the driving range and was yet another discussion with a player. This time it was the famed Keegan Bradley. I was so happy to have this interview in particular because I am a big fan of his. We asked him questions about ranging from what is needed to win the tournament to who do you want to win the Super Bowl. I had such a blast and couldn't get over the fact that I just spoke to such a big name in golf.
    We then hit our next stop; the PGA TOUR rules officials. We spoke to a true expert in the field. His name was Slugger White.. White has been working as a rules official for more than three decades. He also said that before his current job, he was also a PGA TOUR pro. We got the inside scoop of just how difficult the job of a rules official is. He revealed things such as the set up the tournament required beforehand.
     He travels more than half the year on the road and when asked if he ever comes to the desert for recreational purposes he said, "No I am not usually home, so when I am not out traveling tournaments, I try to spend all the time with my family." He also stated all of the places he has been to: Australia, China, Mexico, just to name a few. We acknowledged his hard work and time.
    Our last activity for the day was going behind the scenes of Golf Channel. As we stepped inside the truck I was instantly greeted with a tight space filled with dozens of computers, and television screens. When we arrived, they were doing a rehearsal for the real deal tomorrow. He explained all the bells and whistles of all the equipment and what goes on in that room during the actual tournament.
    We visited the next station which was where they prepared the perfect colors for all the cameras and video that is aired on Golf Channel. I was astounded on just how much technology was in that room and how many people it took to man. To me it looked like a government base in the movies with all the computers. It was one of the busiest and best days of my life. I was so excited for all the fun adventures I was going to experience tomorrow and just could not wait.

Day Two Blog

By Zane Rhodes

We arrived at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation holding our toasty warm Starbucks, that we acquired before our arrival, with high spirits. My partner and I both had a good sense of what the day was going to be like. We thought the day was going to be a lot like the first one, but little did we know.
    Our journey on the second day began with us getting our things settled at the junior course reporter's section inside the media tent. We then began the day with a stroll down the driving range. As we were walking in, I noticed just how many pros there are playing the tournament. We took a stroll down the range and stopped at many different pros to see their swings. It was amazing just how well they could hit it and I couldn't help but be a little envious when seeing their ball whacked 300+ yards down the range.
    Jasmine, my co-reporter, and I also stopped to view the players on the putting green. It was amazing to see just how many different practicing routines each pro had and just how unique each player’s approach to golf are.
    Just as we were about to leave our coach, Coach Chris, pointed out a very important person. As I looked where he was referring to, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was him! It was former President Bill Clinton, surrounded by many people in black suits, which I assumed to be the Secret Service. I was so ecstatic I could hardly contain myself. Here I was, on the range, in front of the general public, just yards away from one of history’s most powerful people. I quickly asked my coach if we could get possibly get an interview with him and he said something along the lines of, "Fat chance."
    I wasn't really expecting yes as an answer, but I was still a little heart-broken. Although we couldn't interview him, I was excited for my next destination; Brunch!
    We head over back to the media center for a much needed eating session in the lunch room. As I was chowing down on a very tasty bagel, I heard something that caught my attention. It was an announcement that Mr. Clinton was coming to the interview room in half an hour. Happier than I could ever be, I wanted to get good seats for the conference, even if it was still 30 minutes away. I started devouring my bagel at a pace unknown to man. I entered the conference room still wiping my face from the meal before.
    As I took my seat, I was not surprised to see a couple of people already sitting down. I popped a squat and waited for the interview to begin. I was killing time when I saw all the people pouring in, filling every available seat. I assumed it was just minutes till it began and I prepared myself for the awesome event that was just about to take place at the Humana Challenge.
    I heard the intercom announce that the president was coming and we all shuffled and turned our attention to the door. He walked through and took a seat on one of the three couches in front of the room and on the stage. The other two couch seats were taken by the director of the PGA, and the CEO of the Humana Challenge. The former President got up to the podium and spoke about the tournament, and how much it means to him. Mr Clinton seemed very relaxed coming up and speaking to everyone; it was quite noticeable because of the way he spoke and some of the jokes and stories he told.
    He answered many questions and spoke for a long time; but after a while it was time for him to say farewell and he had to go. As he left out the door, I couldn't help but think just how big of a deal that was, and just how wonderful it is to have a tournament on the PGA TOUR that is sponsored by an organization that helps so many people. Also how many charities the tournament donates to.
    With that last thought in my mind, we headed to Bob Hope Square with no plan of action, save the smoothies I wanted to make. We headed to the Humana tent and arrived at the smoothie-making station. I picked my flavors (strawberry and banana) and then took a seat on a bike, which is attached to a blender which crushes up the fruit and ice as you pedal. I got on the bike and got to work I blended the ingredients and was instantly rewarded with a tasty smoothie which was gone in a heartbeat.
    I looked down at the now empty plastic cup and realized just how hungry I was. When we were strolling around the square, we heard about a food presentation and I couldn't resist. We took a seat and a chef by the name of Nathan Lyon taught us how to quickly make a healthy salad with the main ingredients being apple and fennel. As we listened, I was pleasantly surprised about just how easy it was to make. I was also happy when we got a chance to taste it. The flavors in the salad were astounding and I couldn't believe just how easy it is to make a healthy meal.
    After visiting Club 17, (a hospitality tent on the 17th hole of the Palmer Private Course at PGA WEST) we headed to the Golf Channel truck. When we went Wednesday, they were doing a rehearsal in the truck. When we went inside the truck, we were greeted by people who were in the deepest focus on their job.
    In an effort to not disturb them, we shuffled to the back of the truck and listened to the people speak. The people in the truck adjusted cameras and recorded shots when needed. There was always a firm, but calm tone that was voiced overtime something needed to be said. It was fun watching these people have nicknames for the players, and just to observe what happens behind the scenes.
    We left the truck with an understanding of the magnitude of difficulty of these people's jobs. As the day was coming to a close, we entered the conference room where players were soon to be interviewed. We listened to Ryan Palmer's interview and about his awesome round on Thursday (six birdies in a row to close off the round!). We also saw Zach Johnson get interviewed as he talked about his first round too. We caught Zach right when he was leaving and requested a picture. We got the snapshot, thanked him, and left.
    That was the last destination in my journey through the Humana Challenge experience, being part of the media. I was sad that it was over, but when I look back on those two days, I realize that I had the time of my life, and couldn't be more thankful for the opportunities presented by not only the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation, but also to the First Tee of Coachella Valley.

About Zane Rhodes

Zane was born on April 27 1999, in Seattle Washington.  A year later, his family moved to the Palm Desert, CA which has been his home ever since. Until last year, Zane attended Sacred Heart School where he achieved many awards in academic achievement.  Currently he is a freshman at Palm Desert High School.

In addition to being grateful to have a wonderful family , there are three things that define who he is:  his golf skills; his academic achievements; the service he provides to the community.

One of the things he values is his golfing skills.  Zane has a handicap in the single digits which required patience and a lot of dedication to achieve.  He loves playing the sport and has been affiliated with First Tee for about five years.  As much as he enjoys friendly rounds, he believes that his calling is to play competitively as a professional golfer.  He is working hard toward that goal and am making good progress.   This past summer he had the good fortune of competing in a tournament on the Links course of Lufness in Scotland.

He also works hard on his academic achievements. He was part of Student Council and National Junior Honor Society in middle school.  The Student Council helped me develop leadership skills and required a GPA of 3.00 or better.  The National Junior Honors Society also required a GPA of 3.75 or better. I am an honors student in all of my classes currently at Palm Desert High.  In addition, without the required algebra 2 classes, he was able to attain special permission to get into a physics , something he has been interested to pursue later in his life.
Zane also finds the social aspect of the world we live in intriguing.  Although he doesn’t have any classes concerning the subject, He has read numerous books on the subject. These books include The Giver, Ender’s Game, and Anthem.

In addition, he has a strong sense of responsibility to give back to my community. He volunteered at Eisenhower Medical Center during the summer helping patients with tasks they could not perform themselves and found the experience very rewarding.

Zane also joined a club called Youth Court.  We help kids who’ve made mistakes get out of trouble.  We help guide them through community service and counseling to ultimately clear—up their records.

Last, but most certainly not least, he helps younger kids at the First Tee and develop their skills and character, just as he has been taught character through the First Tee and its nine core values. He wants to pass on what I’ve learned to the next generation to benefit from it as he has.

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