Five-year-old Upper Arlington resident Nick DiPaolo hit the ceremonial first tee at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational, a golf tournament held July 21-27 at the Ohio State University Scarlet Course on Tremont Road.

Five-year-old Upper Arlington resident Nick DiPaolo hit the ceremonial first tee at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational, a golf tournament held July 21-27 at the Ohio State University Scarlet Course on Tremont Road.

All tournament proceeds benefit the hospital, where Nick was a patient last year when doctors found a tumor in his liver. Nick has responded well to treatment and was in fine form when, with the assistance of his father Rich, he hit the first golf ball of the day on July 24.

An avid golfer, Rich often takes Nick with him to the driving range.

"He actually has more fun dumping the balls than hitting them," Rich DiPaolo said.

Upon hitting the first ball as his mother, Julie, and 2-year-old sister, Ava, looked on, Nick burst into tears. Although the attention may have been overwhelming, since pro golfers were observing and television cameras recorded the shot, Julie speculated her son's tears were for another reason.

"I think the problem was his father hit it for him, and he wanted to do it himself," Julie said.

Rich said he planned to attend the rest of the tournament.

"I'll probably stop by a couple times this week," the Canterbury Road resident said. "We only live five minutes away."

Nick, who will start preschool this fall, was chosen for the tee shot after tournament organizers consulted with hospital officials to find a child who had undergone treatment there and whose family would be willing to participate.

The first tee, combined with dry, sunny weather, helped get the tournament off to a good start, said John Aman, president of Champions of the Community, Inc., the event's host organization.

"We couldn't ask for a better first morning -- clear skies, a little crisp," Aman said.

The Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational featured 144 professional and collegiate players. The Golf Channel broadcast 10 hours of coverage from the opening round on July 24 to the trophy presentation on July 27. The winner, Bill Lunde, took home a purse of $750,000 -- the fourth largest on the Nationwide Tour.

The tournament brought in more than $55,000 in ticket sales for 2008, according to organizers. All of that money, including a $20,000 bonus pool, went to Nationwide Children's Hospital and participating charities.

cbournea@thisweeknews.com