Golf notes: Porter leaves ArborLinks after 10 years; Nebraska junior programs combine

After 10 years at ArborLinks as general manager, Jeff Porter of Omaha has been hired as executive director of The First Tee of Omaha and Hogan’s Heroes. Porter succeeds Joel Kock, who led the organization since 2013.

“I am absolutely humbled by the opportunity to lead The First Tee of Omaha and Hogan’s Heroes,’’ Porter said. “Without question, I will be driven by Steve Hogan’s impact and legacy on junior golf in north Omaha and embrace the challenges and rewards of positively impacting today’s youth.”

Nebraska junior programs combine

The Nebraska Golf Association and the Nebraska Section PGA have combined their junior programs, expanding the Nebraska Junior Golf Tour to include all things junior golf in the state.

Nebraska Junior Golf will have a membership aspect and continue the competitive opportunities that the NJGT provided in past years. Membership registration is underway with two levels of membership, including $60 for those nine-hole members and $70 for 18-hole members.

“The junior golf landscape has always been tough to navigate,” Nebraska Golf Association Executive Director Craig Ames said. “By bringing everything under one roof, we’re able to provide parents and juniors a road map to guide them regardless of age or skill level.”

Tournament registration for Nebraska Junior Golf events will open Tuesday with more than 70 events for juniors of all ages and skill levels. After joining Nebraska Junior Golf, members will need to create a new player profile in order to register for tournaments. Instructions on how to create a player profile will be available on the website.

The new Nebraska Junior Golf website,, will launch later this spring. Until then, information will be posted at

Nebraska native Kenzie O’Connell & teammate Chad Pfeifer one of three finalists on “Shotmakers”

Kenzie O’Connell was introduced to golf at an early age, and the game has been part of her life in one way or another for as long as she can remember.

Now she’s on one of the three teams that are finalists on Golf Channel’s “Shotmakers.” Taped in February at Topgolf Las Vegas, the final episode airs at 8 p.m. Monday.

Growing up in Sidney, Nebraska, O’Connell was one of the top high school golfers in the state. After graduating in 2010 as a three-time district champion and four-time Class B state medalist, she became a professional player and an instructor in the Denver area.

“Shotmakers” began with nine coed teams of two. Competition tested their precision, distance and control, while challenging their mental toughness and strategic decision-making.

“It was the best experience I’ve ever had by far,” O’Connell said. “I’ve competed in a lot of different competitions throughout my career, and this was like having first-tee jitters every single time you go to hit the ball. It was the toughest competition I’ve ever been in.”

O’Connell’s teammate is Chad Pfeifer, a pro golfer from Caldwell, Idaho. Pfeifer is a retired Army corporal and an amputee. While deployed to Iraq in 2006, Pfeifer was in a patrol vehicle hit by an improvised explosive device. His left leg was amputated above the knee.

While recovering, Pfeifer was fitted with a prosthetic leg and took up golf. He played his first full round 10 months after his injury and became a scratch golfer. He competes regularly and is an ambassador for David Feherty’s Troops First Foundation, which provides assistance to soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

O’Connell said she’s excited to see how the show turns out.

“We’ve been doing a lot of promotion for it,” she said. “It’s cool to see what they come out with from what we did in filming.”

O’Connell has worked as an assistant golf professional. She now plays golf and models full-time and gives private golf lessons in her spare time. She also is an ambassador for Women With Drive. She will play in the Byron Nelson Celebrity Pro-Am in May in Dallas.

O’Connell was one of the Panhandle’s most successful prep golfers. She medaled all four years of her career at the state tournament, finishing as runner-up twice. As a senior, O’Connell won nine of 11 events.

Her mother, Jody, is an assistant pro at Sidney’s Hillside Golf Course.