It is on to the next million for Southwest Florida Golf Charities as it kicks off its 19 Annual Bill Owen Classic at the Eagle Creek Golf & Country Club on Jan. 14.
The organization started out small, with a few men getting together to raise a few bucks for school golf programs.
Over the years it just kept getting better — and bigger.
In the “Drive for a Million” in 2006, donors set a single benefit mark of $143,000 on the way to topping the million-dollar mark, with 216 golfers taking part.
Irv Sherwood, president of the organization, says the outing has similar numbers this year.
“We are still taking reservations for players and sponsors,” invited Sherwood. “We
are really pleased that Ken Venturi will be here. He has been one of the leaders in supporting the organization and helped design the Eagle Creek Golf Course.”
Venturi and wife Kathleen will get to greet old friends from his many years of living on Marco Island. They now live in California.
Venturi is internationally known for his golf exploits and serving for years as CBS’ premier golf analyst.
The event began when Bill Owen, Jesse Elliott, Charlie Benton, Fred Muren and Joe Klimas and Mike Ward of Marco, along with Venturi, teed up at the old Boyne South Golf Course, now known as Naples Lakes.
While the event is separate from the Eagle Creek Golf & Country Club, it is a major event for its membership.
“Nearly 70 percent of the membership participate every year,” Sherwood explained.
Dennis Krueger, president of the Eagle Creek board says the fundraiser is part of the Eagle Creek family.
“The tournament means a great deal to the club,” he said. “It has helped middle schools to high schools, people with traumatic medical problems and needy charities like Hospice. The event does a good job of raising the spirits of our membership.”
Phil Cole, a member of the Hospice Board, now known as Avow, has played in the event and appreciates the organization’s support.
“I’ve enjoyed playing in the outing and greatly appreciate its support to Hospice,” Cole stated. “Over the years Hospice has received $130,000.”
Matt Roop, assistant club professional and Krueger lauded the efforts of Jimmy Austin, golf course superintendent.
“We just had 20 Southwest Florida golf course superintendents here and they said the course had the nicest greens in all of Southwest Florida,” Krueger said.
Sherwood had many cringing when he said the event has never been rained out.
Board member Don Lundy did remind him that one year there had been so much rain that golfers were teeing up every shot.
“It was the Ken Venturi rule,” Lundy said. “Ken determined that it would help the course and the golfers if they could tee up the ball from the soggy ground. I think we picked up tees for two weeks.”
There will be the usual prizes for longest drive and closest to the pin for men and women. A two-year lease on a Germain Lexus will go to a man scoring a hole-in-one on the fifth hole, a 165-yard shot, and woman if she sinks the ball on the 17, a 135-yard hole.
Schilling Jewelers of Marco Island will again provide a special bracelet for the man and the woman with the best low scores. The bracelets are valued at $5,000.
A fee of $175 includes golf, cart, lunch and an awards party, featuring sumptuous hors d’oeuvres, presented by the country club. Shrimp, chicken cordon bleu, mini crab cakes, roast beef and turkey are among the delectable items.
Call 774-2202, or 775-8642 to reserve a place or a team for the outing and to learn more about sponsorship availability.