Bush, Palmer, Nelson honor Stephens for First Tee

by Brendan O'Reilly  on Wednesday, Apr. 11, 2001 3:18 pm  

Former President George Bush and golfing legends Arnold Palmer and Byron Nelson were on hand today in Little Rock to honor Jack Stephens for his contributions to golf and promotion of youth golf.

Stephens was honored at the dedication ceremony of The First Tee of Little Rock Jack Stephens Youth Golf Academy, which is part of a nationwide program designed to give youths free access to golf courses, equipment and instruction.

Bush, honorary chairman of The First Tee program, thanked Stephens for giving the program "a fantastic push." Stephens donated $5 million toward the national First Tee effort, becoming the first National Trustee of the First Tee.

"Jack, we love you, and I am very, very grateful for what you've done," said Bush, a longtime friend of the chairman of Stephens Group Inc.

The First Tee program, a World Golf Foundation initiative dedicated to providing affordable golf access for children who otherwise might not have an opportunity to play, started after the 1997 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. In addition to the Little Rock facility, the program is building one in Fort Smith. They are among 134 facilities being developed in 38 states.

"Jack's an avid golfer and supporter of the game," said PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. "We sat down at Augusta with Jack and talked with him about what became the First Tee program. ... He gave us the biggest grant and was instrumental in getting Augusta National behind the First Tee program."

Other dignitaries at the event included broadcasters Pat Summerall and Chris Schenkel and former PGA pro Jerry Pate.

Speaking on behalf of his father, Warren Stephens explained how the former chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters was a late-comer to the game.

"Unlike the young people who will use the Academy, Dad never played golf until he was 35 because he grew up in a time when it was unthinkable," Warrens Stephens said. "The goal here is for that to never be a barrier to these children."

The Little Rock facility is scheduled to open May 1.



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