Two Tickets to Paradise

2 Colorado First Tee members selected to compete in pro-junior portion of PGA Tour Champions’ PURE Insurance Championship, including sister of 2021 participant Hunter Swanson

By Gary Baines – 7/11/2023

The U.S. Women’s Open just concluded at Pebble Beach Golf Links, and spectators — both on site and via television — received yet another reminder of what a special place it is.

In a couple of months, two junior golfers from Colorado will have the opportunity to not only play Pebble Beach Golf Links — along with Spyglass Hill — but to do so during a PGA Tour Champions event. And … in a tournament that will be televised internationally on the Golf Channel.

This week, the Champions circuit and the First Tee announced the 80 First Tee members who will compete at the PURE Insurance Championship Impacting First Tee, set for Sept. 22-24.

At the event, First Tee representatives will be paired with PGA Tour Champions professionals and compete in a pro-junior team competition.

The two Coloradans selected to play in this years events were Lev Abramson of the First Tee Colorado Rocky Mountains, based at City Park Golf Course in Denver; and Makaela Swanson of the First Tee Green Valley Ranch in northeast Denver. Abramson attends Kent Denver and Swanson Northfield High School.

Swanson is the younger sister of current University of Colorado golfer Hunter Swanson, who himself competed in the PURE Insurance Championship. In 2021, Swanson and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen (for the first two rounds) and Steven Alker (on the third day) tied for fifth out of 81 teams in the pro-junior competition. The Swansons are two of the five GVR First Tee members all-time who have been chosen to compete in this event (along with Davis Bryant, Austin Powell and Kyle Leydon).

Meanwhile, this marks the 13th time that the First Tee Colorado Rocky Mountains has sent one of its members to the PURE Insurance Championship, with the previous ones being Aaron Woodard (2004 and ’05), Elizabeth Kresock (2008), Aaron Guereca (2008), Jack Tynan (2012), Kobe Padilla (2013), Brock Dowdy (2015), Kailer Rundiks (2016), Cole Drew (2017), Mateo Manzanares (2017), Will Perez (2019) and Aubri Braecklein (2019).

Abramson and Makaela Swanson — along with the 78 other First Tee participants, all age 14-18 — were selected by a national panel of judges based on their personal growth and development through First Tee’s programs, as well as their playing ability. On average, the participants own a 3.95 grade-point average and a 1.5 handicap.

“Being selected to play in this tournament speaks volumes about the character of each of these 80 participants and I’m so excited to see this unforgettable experience play out for them,” said Martin Leitch, CEO of PURE Insurance.

Clint Eastwood serves as the chairman of the PURE Insurance Championship, and this year’s field is expected to include Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Davis Love and Steve Stricker.

Golfers will play one tournament round each at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Sept. 22-23, then all of the final-round action on Sept. 24 is set for Pebble Beach. Twenty-four of the First Tee juniors will advance to Sunday based on their 36-hole team scores. One male and one female winner will be decided on that Sunday.

First Tee chapters throughout the U.S. and internationally strive to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character and instill life-enhancing values through the game of golf.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates