ONLINE: WEBSITE | PHOTOS | SOCIAL
NAPLES, FLORIDA – First Tee – Massachusetts participants Keira Joshi and David Jope took second place in the 2023 Golf to Paradise – First Tee Champions Challenge in Naples, FL, Feb. 12-15. The event was hosted by the Chubb Classic presented by SERVPRO, the Naples, Marco Island & The Everglades, Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), and First Tee – Naples/Collier.
“This was an incredible experience for our participants and we’re so thankful to the Chubb Classic for inviting our chapter to be a part of it,” said Kyle Harris, Director of Operations for First Tee – Massachusetts. “The opportunity for Keira and David to compete and engage with 10 other participants from around the country, across a wide range of activities, was absolutely priceless.”
Jope (Freetown, MA) and Joshi (Ashland, MA) joined participants from the First Tee chapters of Greater Chicago, Greater Philadelphia, Metropolitan New York, and Naples/Collier. During their time in the Sunshine State, they participated in four days of golf, a community service project, and social events. On the three days of competition, Jope and Joshi improved each day as they got more familiar with one another and knocked the winter rust off their game. Additionally, they overcame the challenge of a new playing surface as it was the first time playing on Bermuda grass for both of them.
“This was so much fun and I really appreciate being selected for this awesome event,” said Jope. “I am really thankful for the opportunity that First Tee and the Chubb Classic has given me to compete and make new friends in a constructive and positive environment.”
“This experience really meant a lot to me,” said Joshi. “I had so much fun. I’m really grateful to the Chubb Classic and First Tee – Naples for setting us up on so many awesome courses. And I met some really great people from other First Tee chapters, both kids and coaches, who I hope to stay connected with. I had a blast and I will definitely remember this trip.”
On the opening day of competition, a 9-hole scramble at Tiburon Golf Club’s Gold course, Jope and Joshi logged a 40 and found themselves in third place. The following day saw the Bay-Staters posted perhaps their most impressive round of the tournament, shooting a 39 in the challenging alternate-shot format at Royal Poinciana Golf Club’s Pines course, which moved them into second place overall.
Jope and Joshi wrapped up the tournament with a final-round 37 in a 9-hole best-ball (four-ball) on The Club at Twin Eagles’ Talon course. Paired with the overall leaders from the Naples chapter, the two groups competed neck-and-neck, with Naples making a birdie against Joshi’s par on the final hole to win the four-ball by one shot. That performance cemented an overall second-place finish for First Tee – Massachusetts.
“I could not be more proud of the way Keira and David represented themselves, our chapter, Mass Golf, and the entire First Tee Network,” Harris said. “They were really impressive in the competition but more importantly they lived out the life skills and character values that set First Tee apart. They were leaders among their peers, and gracious and appreciative to our various hosts. I was really impressed by them all week.”
Joshi, Jope, and Harris traveled to Naples on Saturday, Feb. 11 and were welcomed to a practice round at Royal Poinciana. The next morning they enjoyed a very windy practice round at Foxfire Country Club, arranged by Paul Coutoumas, a First Tee – Massachusetts lead coach and head professional at D.W. Field GC, who is a Foxfire member and winter resident of Naples. After the round, they joined the rest of the First Tee chapters for a catamaran cruise around Naples Bay.
After Monday’s scramble round, all of the event participants attended the First Tee – Naples/Collier gala fundraiser event, assisting with festivities as the chapter raised money for it’s new learning center.
Prior to Tuesday’s alternate-shot round, the participants gathered for a beach clean-up, then headed back to Tiburon for a clinic with 5-time PGA TOUR winner and Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup player, Scott Verplank. Joshi was particularly pleased with the clinic as Verplank was able to give her a tip that helped straighten out a hook she was fighting in the previous round. The clinic was sponsored by Porsche of Naples, and emcee’d by Chubb Classic Executive Director Sandy Diamond.
“We have to say another huge Thank You to Tiburon Golf Club, Royal Poinciana Golf Club and The Club at Twin Eagles for making their spectacular golf facilities available to us,” added Harris. “Our kids were blown away by the quality of the golf courses and the graciousness of the club staff and members. Additionally, tournament manager Alexa Wood of Outlyr, Chubb Classic Executive Director Sandy Diamond, and Porsche of Naples did a great job setting up the event and arranging an incredible week for our kids. We are just thrilled with the experience all the way around.”