PEBBLE BEACH As James Reede III marched to the green at the par-5 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links earlier this month, he could not disguise his disgust.
His tee shot on the hole had sailed left into the Pacific Ocean, and his chances of playing the famed seaside links in Sundays final round of the Nature Valley First Tee Open had likely sunk with it. That is when Loren Roberts, his Champions Tour partner in the pro-junior competition, approached and delivered a pep talk.
He told me not to hang my head, Reede recalled. He said: Look around. Take it all in. All the greats have played here, and so have you.
Reede missed the cut by one shot. But it proved to be what Reedes coach at the First Tee of Sacramento likes to call a teachable moment. The pairing of San Luis Obispo native Roberts, 57, and Reede, 18, at an event that gave 81 participants in First Tee, a national organization that develops youth through golf, a chance to compete with Champions Tour players, was no mere coincidence.
In late 2009, their lives intersected when Reede and his friends followed Roberts throughout the final round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Sonoma. They bantered back and forth, and when Roberts finished his round, he invited the youngsters to speak with him and he signed autographs for them. During their conversation, Reedes father told Roberts that his sons golf program at Monterey Trail High near Sacramento was one of nine teams in the school district to be eliminated because of the state budget.
He turned beet red and said, Im not going to let that happen, the elder Reede said of Roberts.
Roberts could relate. In 1975, he turned professional after his sophomore season at Cal Poly when the university dropped its Division II golf team. On this day, Roberts had just won his second $1 million annuity through the Schwab Cup in three years. He did the math: there were 18 teams between boys and girls, with as many as 10 students per team. Reede and his sister Jessica, the captain of the Monterey Trail girls team, were among the 180 students to be affected. A $35,000 donation would save the teams.
It just seemed like the right thing to do, Roberts said.
When he realized that Reede had two years of high school remaining, Roberts doubled his contribution.
Tears streamed down the face of the elder Reede when he heard the news. Golf has been his sons salvation. Reede joined the First Tee of Sacramento in 1999. He has become a scratch golfer and won the Western States Golf Association junior championship in August. Reede volunteered more than 120 hours in 2008 at his First Tee chapter, and the next year got his first paying job there. When three of his friends were injured in a shooting at a party, Reede was at home in bed. He had an early morning tee time.
A lot of my friends have been associated with gang life, Reede said. Golf has kept me on the straight and narrow. Its kept me from being where I shouldnt be. Its my safe haven.
Reede knows danger never lurks far away. At one party he attended, he was not nearly as lucky. Shots rang out. A teenage girl that Reede had danced with earlier that night was killed, his father said.
They dont have drive-bys from golf carts, said the elder Reede, an engineer for the California Energy Commission and a professor of environmental science at Sacramento State. For eight to 12 hours during the summertime, I know where my kid is and I dont have to worry about the other problems in my community.
The younger Reede has benefited from the unlikely friendship he began with Roberts. They talk regularly, and Reede emails updates on his golf and report cards. In 2011, Roberts attended one of Reedes spring golf matches. Roberts saves the letters and team pictures he has received.
You never know when you help some person if that person is going to touch a million lives, Roberts said.
Reede became the first Monterey Trail golfer to earn a golf scholarship. He signed a national letter of intent in April to attend Jackson State University in Mississippi, where he plans to major in mechanical engineering.
I used golf as a way to get into college, he said. Education is the one thing nobody can ever take away from you.
The memories he made at Pebble Beach are as indelible as ink. Reede sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, blushed when the junior participants sang Happy Birthday to him (he turned 18 on Monday), and posed for a picture with Arnold Palmer. None of it compared to playing with his hero Roberts for the first time.
Reede was most impressed with Roberts even-keeled demeanor and noted he never heard him curse.
Hes made me a better man, Reede said.