09/22/12 — Jones hits good shot, but sails high over the pin

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Jones hits good shot, but sails high over the pin

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 22, 2012 11:22 PM

Mike Jones took a couple of practice swings.

He walked to the golf cart, pulled out a hybrid club and waited for the group ahead of him to finish on No. 9.

A few seconds later, Jones took a another swing and lofted an arching shot onto the green that landed 21 feet behind the pin. On any other day, Jones would have been extremely pleased with his shot from 165 yards out.

But this one-chance stroke carried a huge bounty -- $1 million.

Jones emerged the top finisher among a group of qualifiers, who battled for three days on the driving range at Goldsboro Municipal Golf Club for that one opportunity to claim the prize offered by The First Tee of Eastern North Carolina.

The vice president of Ellis Jones Inc., Jones' shot from the fairway easily carried over the water and frontside bunker, and was in line with the flag flowing in the breeze. Once it landed, The First Tee organizers sighed in relief, but also hoped they'd have a winner in their second $1 million Challenge.

"It was awesome, really didn't think I had a chance," Jones said. "I hit that last shot ... came pretty close, kind of scary that I almost made it. I had a lot of luck in it, too (but) I knew it was a little strong.

"You have to go over that bunker and I hit it high. I hoped the wind would have knocked it down, but there was no wind."

Jones received a consolation prize -- an invitation to the inaugural First Tee of Eastern North Carolina tournament scheduled for May of 2013 in the New Bern area. He can invite three friends to play in his group.

The First Tee is a non-profit youth development organization founded in 1997 by the Professional Golf Association of America, the LPGA, the Masters Tournament and the United States Golf Association. Shell Oil Company is the founding corporate partner.

Former President George H.W. Bush served as the organization's first honorary chairman. He is now Honorary Chair Emeritus and his son, George W., is the honor chair.

The First Tee National School Program introduces golf, nine core values and nine healthy habits to students at more than 4,700 elementary schools throughout the United States. The programs are also offered on 120 U.S. military installations -- domestic and international.

The nine core values -- respect, honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment -- are key when teaching youth the game of golf, says Martin Vezina, executive director of The First Tee of Eastern North Carolina.

Vezina introduced The First Tee National School Program to Craven County and said that it takes about $3,500 to start a program in each elementary school.

"The nine core values are what are important to us," Vezina said. "The game of golf is a great self benefit. We need $35,000 to finish Craven County, then we're going to move into Lenoir County and Wayne County will be next after that."