Manila golfer shares skills

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Michael Shedd is excited about having the opportunity to qualify for the First Tee Wal-Mart Pebble Beach Open Tournament coming up at the end of the summer. Michael, a senior at Manila High School, has been involved with the First Tee program since he was nine years old.

C.M. Cummings, director of the First Tee, (left) and Michael Shedd (right) work with the younger children in the First Tee program at Big Lake Country Club. Michael has been in the program for nine years and enjoys mentoring to the younger golfers. Also pictured are Mikayla Shedd, Landen Owen, Neal Benson, David Keys, Jozalyn Keys, and Gage Owen. (Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)

"Michael is one step away from making history," C.M. Cummings, First Tee director, said. "He has survived the selection phase of the Pebble Beach Open Tournament."

The road to Pebble Beach is a selection process. Michael had to apply, submit a 500-700 word essay, and meet the qualifications to be part of the competition in Manhattan, Kan. He applied last year but did not make it to this level.

Michael found out on June 3 he was selected to go to Kansas State University to work his way on to Pebble Beach.

Only 90 boys from all over the U.S. and some International First Tee programs made the first group in the selection process. Only two from Arkansas made the list.

Approximately 189 applicants, 142 young men and 47 young women, applied.

"I think 90 guys and 36 girls were accepted," Michael said. "Fifty-four guys and 18 girls will qualify to go to Pebble Beach. I will leave for Kansas on July 14 and return on July 18."

Through First Tee, Michael was accepted to attend the golf academy in Kansas last year.

"I was thrilled to have the opportunity last year to attend the academy," Michael said. "I like going back because I have been there and am familiar with the course," Michael said. "It has always been a dream of mine to play at Pebble Beach," Michael said. "U.S. Opens have been held there."

Michael plans on working hard and is working on his swing every day. He hopes to earn a place to go on to Pebble Beach.

"It is more than just golf involved," Michael said. "We will be scored on our life skills as well as our golf skills on a point system. "I was in a golf tournament in Jonesboro when My Dad called congratulating me on being accepted to Kansas."

In addition to be involved with the First Tee, Michael has played on the Manila high school golf team for three years and received the best average awards.

"First Tee has been great for me," Michael said. "I have learned a lot from Mr. Cummings. He seems to get the best out of me."

Michael is sharing his skill and the love of the game by mentoring children just starting in the First Tee program. He encourages the young athletes and assists Mr. Cummings in classes.

"I am excited for Michael," Cummings said. "He is the number one player in NE First Tee. He is captain of our Dream Team and is at the Eagle level. Part of the Eagle level is being involved in a strong, mentoring program. Michael is working with youth in the program from Manila, Blytheville and Osceola. Michael finished medalist in the high school Regional Championship out of 72 players. That is quite an achievement. He is a star in the making."

The First Tee program has been in Manila School in an after school program for seven years and is now in the summer program.

"Big Lake Country Club has let us use their putting green and driving range once a week," Cummings said.

The classes alternate from Manila Big Lake Country Club and Oakes First Tee Course in Gosnell.

"We are encouraging the summer program," Cummings said. "It is a drop-in, open enrollment. It gives young people the opportunity to see if they enjoy the game and want to continue in the program."

There is no charge for the First Tee and clubs and balls are provided to the children. It is open for children ages 5-17.

The summer classes are held from 4:30-6 p.m. each Wednesday.

"Golf is not like most other sports," Cummings said. "Basketball or baseball is a team sport. Golf is an individual sport. First Tee is more than golf education, it teaches life skills. I can assist with the golf swing but I cannot teach anyone how to play the game of golf. The game and the course will teach them. The summer program is a good opportunity to see if the young people like it. This is the seventh year in the program. Manila has been very supportive from the very beginning. We have had classes in Monette and Leachville, also."

Cummings again praised Michael for his dedication to the First Tee and his encouragement to the younger golfers in the program.

Michael is the son of David and Treena Shedd of Manila.

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