First Tee pair will take their game to national golf events - The Buffalo News
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First Tee pair will take their game to national golf events

Gregory Sibick labored over the application. Five essays. Full golf resume. Twenty lengthy questions about First Tee’s core values.

His aptitude for the intellectual aspect of golf proved to be as smooth as his backswing.

Sibick is one of two local athletes, both affiliated with The First Tee of Western New York program, who recently earned admittance to national golf events. He will compete in the 2013 Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, a PGA event. Helen Busch, meanwhile, has been selected for the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy.

Sibick, 16, the runner-up Thursday in the Buffalo District Golf Association Junior Match Play tournament, will be a junior at Nichols; Busch, 17, will be a senior at Amherst.

“It’s really special,” Sibick said. “The application was really long ... I worked on it for a while and I’m happy to get this opportunity. I can’t wait. It hasn’t really set in yet, but when I get there, it’ll be awesome.”

Sibick was with Buffalo’s Pat Fahey (Timon, Cornell University), who attended the 2011 First Tee Open, when Sibick received the email stating his acceptance.

Sibick was one of 81 juniors (51 boys, 30 girls) selected from the over 150 applicants. At the Open, each junior is paired with a Champions Tour player and two celebrities. The foursome plays two rounds and the best score from each player is added up. The teams that make the cut then play Pebble Beach again.

The event is Sept. 27-29 and will be broadcast on the Golf Channel. Busch was one of 60 golfers chosen to attend the Hank Haney Academy in Hilton Head, S.C. after applying online. She’ll be there Sunday-Aug. 3.

“It’s a chance to improve my game to the level I want to reach, to succeed at golf and to learn more ways to improve myself beyond the golf course,” Busch, who plays on the Tigers’ boys golf team, said. “I’m really excited. I never thought this would happen to me and I’m so grateful for it.”

She is most looking forward to “working with some of the best coaches and getting a different outlook on how you can change your swing and improve your scores, just learning different ways to help out your game.”

Andrew Bennett is the executive director of WNY’s First Tee chapter.

“It shows that in addition to being good golfers and facilitating the swing mechanics, they are learning the life skills that we are teaching,” Bennett said. “To get into these different opportunities, there is a part in the application process about the life skills, so it’s really creating a well-rounded person.”

Both golfers are known as solid strikers. Sibick is noted for his exceptional hands and tempo while Busch’s short game has improved dramatically this year. Busch is involved in the BIG (Buffalo Inner-city Golf) program and joined First Tee this year. Sibick has been with First Tee four years.

First Tee’s offices are located at Orchard Park’s Harvest Hill Golf Course. Patty Jordan-Smith works for First Tee’s national organization and is the WNY program director.

“I think it gives us an opportunity to tell the story of what we’re doing all the time, just that people don’t see it,” Jordan-Smith said. “We have hundreds of kids that we work with, and each one has their own story.

“We’re proud of Helen and Greg for what they’re accomplishing, and you look at the other stories – the kids that maybe never found their sport and then found a home with First Tee, and they’re excelling, growing in confidence and perseverance – those are the stories that don’t make the paper, but they’re stories we like to tell just as much as Gregory and Helen.”

First Tee of WNY has just over 600 youth golfers in the program..


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