Scott Crisco has played a lot of golf, but he’d never played 72 holes in a single day. Yet the idea of doing what he loved — playing golf — and making it worthwhile for the First Tee of Central Arkansas was what drew him to the First Tee’s course on a hot Friday in early October.

Crisco had the day off from his previous position teaching high school algebra to Spanish speaking students at Little Rock Hall (he’s since gone back to work for a central Arkansas trucking company with his brother, Nick, who is also a top amateur golfer). And, it wasn’t like Crisco and any of the golfers had to race through each hole in an effort to set some Guinness world record. The rules allowed each golfer to play up to three balls per hole; Crisco played one ball from First Tee’s tips and another from the next closest marker. Carts were provided to the competitors.

Another playing partner, Blake Jones, who works at Merrill Lynch, had already conquered 72 holes in the morning and was going at it again that afternoon. Around the course, another 10 golfers had joined in the marathon. In all, thanks to pledges of as little as 25 cents a hole, the marathon golfers would help raise $10,000 in one day for First Tee at little to no expense for the facility.

Good Old Days

“I was just happy that I was in a position to finally do something that I felt like might give back to the game that’s helped me so much,” Crisco said. “Golf gave me a free college education and I got to see a lot of the country because of it.

“I’m not very old yet, but one thing I don’t think I’ve done a good job of is giving back a little bit to the game. That whole thing helped me not just raise money, but to feel like I was giving back to the game.”

Crisco grew up in McCrae and attended Beebe High School. He started playing golf at River Oaks in Searcy. Crisco’s grandfather, who died three years ago, taught him how to play.

Crisco was playing baseball but tried one golf tournament, the Greater Little Rock Open at Rebsamen Golf Course as a junior. He earned a third-place trophy in his age group and became hooked. He became good enough to win junior ASGA Player of the Year honors and earn a golf scholarship to Arkansas State. He thought for a while that being a teaching pro would be his life’s destination, but he went in another direction.

“There was always a hole where that was concerned,” he said about giving back.

Scott and Nick Crisco make the Arkansas State Golf Association’s Four-Ball Tournament in late April an annual event. He’s not sure his new job with Bruce Oakley Trucking will leave him time for a 72-hole jaunt on the course this summer, unless it’s scheduled for a weekend.

But if work permits, he insists he’ll be back. He remembers his youth when there wasn’t a First Tee. Crisco was graduating high school, in 1999, when First Tee was just a plan and still two years away from opening in Little Rock.

“There just weren’t that many kids playing when I was a junior golfer,” he said. “In the ninth grade, there were only two kids on the golf team. But by the time I was a senior, that’s after Tiger Woods had won the 1997 Masters, 25 people tried out for the team. That’s when golf blew up. That was an exciting time.”

Money Makers

Crisco caddied at The Alotian Club, Warren Stephens’ exclusive golf venue in west Pulaski County, a few years back, and caddies were allowed to play and practice at First Tee for free, which gave Crisco his first experience with the venue. But until last fall’s marathon, he had never played the par-3, nine-hole Honors side of the facility. After that, though, Crisco was sold on everything First Tee can provide in the way of teaching golfers of any age.

“I’ve been a big proponent that golf is the greatest game ever invented,” he said. “There is so much satisfaction and life lessons that can be gained from playing in a golf tournament … Plus they’re trying to reach out to a group of kids that, for lack of better word, don’t have the means to play the game of golf. I wasn’t rich growing up as a kid, but my parents provided me every opportunity to play golf. So, it’s just good to see something like the First Tee.”

The golf marathon was one of several fund-raising events the past two years. Last year, the Arkansas House of Representatives staged a Ryder Cup-like event with nine Republicans vs. nine Democrats (the Democrats won). The event brought in $25,000 from underwriting sponsors and exposed the First Tee mission to legislators who pledged General Improvement Funds to help. The legislators are expected back to fight over the Speaker’s Cup again this summer.

And look for the golf marathon again this fall. Call chairman Chad Causey at 562-5643 for information on First Tee programs and events.