Fishing: Gene Doyle Tournament continues to fund adventures for Collier students
Southwest Florida anglers will be fishing for more than just big hauls this weekend.
The 21st annual Gene Doyle Backcountry Release Fishing Tournament raises money for the Gene Doyle Adventure Scholarship, which gives Collier County students a chance to explore the world around them. Anglers will target redfish, snook and trout during the annual catch-and-release tournament from Friday through Sunday.
While traditional scholarships offer financial assistance for college tuition, the scholarship — inspired by late Naples High grad Gene Doyle — funds opportunities for Collier County students to go on adventure expeditions.
"We didn't want to make it a typical scholarship," Gene's father, Robin Doyle said. "It was decided it should fund the kind of adventure trip that Gene loved.
"He would not be happy if he knew we were buying books in his memory."
After graduating from Naples in 1995, Gene Doyle and a friend bought a one-way plane ticket to Alaska where he walked the docks until they got a job. He worked as a deckhand that summer and returned the following summer as a skiff operator for a commercial salmon fishing boat. He attended the University of South Carolina and planned to study abroad in Belize in Spring 1997.
On November 17, 1996, Doyle was killed in a car accident on Interstate 95.
"He would want kids to be able to do the kind of stuff that he did," Robin Doyle said.
This year, the foundation awarded scholarships to Lely's Avorie Andrews, Gulf Coast's Wyatt Focht, and Naples High's Grace Sullivan.
Andrews will go dog sledding in the Minnesota Boundary Waters. Focht will alpine backpack in the Chugach Mountains in Alaska, and Sullivan will go alpine backpacking in the High Sierras.
The scholarship is open to any Collier County high school junior, senior or first-year college student. The scholarship has been awarded 63 times over the last 21 years.
"Participating in these adventure trips teaches kids things that they can't learn in school," Robin Doyle said. "It teaches them self-reliance and self confidence. The kids learn that they really can do these things that they thought were beyond their reach."
This year's winners will be recognized at Sunday evening's banquet at the Naples Sailing and Yacht Club following the tournament. Former winners will also speak at the banquet and share their experiences such as 2001 Lely High School graduate Amy Amico, who used her scholarship to go mountaineering in Colorado.
"I'm honored to speak this year," Amico wrote in an email. "The scholarship has truly impacted my life and the direction it has taken."