Steeped in history, surrounded by scenic beauty and characterized by its hard, fast and undulating greens, Pebble Beach Golf Links is one of America's most iconic golf courses and possibly the nation's premiere public golf course.
Brentwood's Lauren Conder, 16, has not only played Pebble Beach on four occasions, she's done so as a competitor in the Wal-Mart First Tee Open, which pairs junior golfers ages 14 to 18 with Champions Tour players. The event was televised nationally on The Golf Channel.
Conder, a junior at Heritage High School, was one of 70 junior players to qualify at a selection tournament in New Hampshire in July, put on by The First Tee program.
Upon her arrival at Pebble Beach last weekend, she was paired with Ed Dougherty, a former club professional and PGA Tour player who now competes on the Champions Tour, formerly known as the Senior PGA Tour. Throughout the event, Conder and Dougherty were accompanied by two amateur players vying for their own cup.
Pebble Beach is very tough, very challenging, Conder said. You have to put the ball in the fairway a lot. Driving is a key priority and you also have to be a good putter to score well.
Conder's strong short game made for a bunch of birdie opportunities.
I was putting pretty well, she said. I always at least made par never went below.
Conder shot a 76 at Pebble Beach on the first day of the tournament but failed to make the cut to advance to day two. Instead, she and the other players who did not advance moved over to neighboring Del Monte Golf Course to vie for a consolation cup. Conder scored a 78 at Del Monte.
Del Monte might be more challenging than Pebble Beach, she said. It's longer and there are more bunkers around the greens. There are more trouble spots. Pebble Beach, to me, is a teeny bit more forgiving.
In her second appearance in the tournament, Conder went into this year's event with better perspective. Last year I had no idea what to expect. I was just really excited, she said. This year was easier since I knew what I was doing. I was able to pace myself and I felt more relaxed.
The whole week was full of dinners and engagements with the other players and it was up to me to make time to get enough rest. I also knew to pay attention more in the practice rounds so I knew what my trouble spots would be. I had to be aware of staying above the hole.
A competitive golfer for two years with the nationwide First Tee program, Conder became interested in the game at age 5 when she started participating in camps and playing rounds at Brentwood Golf Club for fun.
She is the first member of the Contra Costa Chapter of The First Tee program to compete in the Wal-Mart event and will become only the second member of her chapter to join the Future Leaders Forum in Orlando, Fla. The forum teaches youngsters the business aspects of the sport and what goes into running a PGA event.
The First Tee program has done so much for me, Conder said. I've met so many people kids, pros, players from around the world. It's broadened my horizons and has given me a lot of opportunities.
Conder has occupied the No. 1 position on her school's golf team since her freshman year. She intends to play for a top college program like Stanford in two years and eventually hopes to play on the LPGA Tour.