Friday, November 17, 2017
Golf

St. Petersburg High's Meredith Kiernan selected to play alongside PGA Tour Champions players at Pebble Beach event

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Meredith Kiernan, 16, of St. Petersburg, has been selected to compete in the PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach in September, where she will play alongside PGA Tour Champions players.

The event, formerly known as the First Tee Open, pairs 81 junior players, aged 14 to 18 and selected by a panel of judges, with 81 PGA Tour Champions players and 162 amateurs. Among the Tour Champions players who have already committed to play the event are eight-time major winner Tom Watson and four-time European Tour player of the year Colin Montgomerie, both of whom are members of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

With a September 8 deadline to commit, further greats of the sport may yet announce their participation, with major winners Bernhard Langer and John Daly among the current PGA Tour Champions players who competed at last year's event. The competition is organized by The First Tee, a nonprofit established by the World Golf Foundation in 1997 to grow the game of golf while introducing "nine core values" of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment in young people.

The junior field was announced Friday on the Golf Channel's program, "The Morning Drive", with Kiernan being one of seven juniors who received a surprise on-air announcement. Kiernan appeared in an interview with "Morning Drive" host Lauren Thompson, before Thompson revealed Kiernan had earned a place at the event.

"I'm first of all just really surprised, but I'm really excited," Kiernan told "The Morning Drive." "I'm going to have to start practicing and getting ready to play, it's crazy. I guess I'm going to start playing some narrow courses."

Kiernan, one of three Florida natives in the field, led St. Petersburg High to a Class 3A, District 12 girls tournament title at Seminole Lake Country Club in October 2016, while also picking up individual honors with a two-over 72, five shots ahead of second place. Kiernan, who will be a junior in the fall, started playing golf at the age of seven and became involved with The First Tee in 2009. She said The First Tee has helped her grow not just as a golfer but also off the course.

"My dad got me started in it. I did the classes after school, then I did the tournaments at the weekends and now I'm a volunteer," Kiernan said. "I've learned a lot of responsibility from the volunteering. When you have the kids looking up to you and asking for advice, it's really cool."

Pebble Beach Golf Links has hosted the competition since its inception in 2004. In addition to the PURE Insurance Championship, it has hosted the U.S. Open five times, most recently in 2010, and the PGA Championship in 1977. In 2001, Pebble Beach became the first public golf course to be named the top course in America by Golf Digest, which currently ranks the course seventh, while 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus said the course was "possibly the best in the world."

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