100 holes of golf for a good cause

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By Elsa Bonstein, Golf Gab

 Labor Day weekend began with a totally awesome display of golf and patriotism at Rivers Edge Golf Course.


Ten PGA pros from our area pledged to play 100 holes of golf in one day — and, by golly, they did.

The beneficiary of this marathon golf event was the Folds of Honor Foundation, which provides scholarships and assistance to the spouses and children of those killed or disabled in service to America.

Folds of Honor was founded by Maj. Dan Rooney, an F-16 pilot from the Oklahoma National Guard. He was returning home after his second tour of duty in Iraq when he watched a flag-draped coffin carrying the remains of Cpl. Brock Bucklin being unloaded from his plane. The Corporal’s twin brother walked with the casket to meet the deceased soldier’s family.

That moment changed the Rooney’s life as he watched the sad procession. Painfully aware of the sacrifices family members make when a serviceman or servicewoman is lost, Rooney dedicated his life to helping those families.

The logo for Folds of Honor is a folded flag. It tells us all about the heavy price of freedom.  

The 100 Holes of Golf Challenge began at 6:30 a.m. The Calabash American Legion posted the colors on a small hill between the Rivers Edge clubhouse and the beautiful salt marshes of the Shallotte River. Participating were Commander Diane Larrow, Dale Smith, Bill Harnimon, Robert Bradisish (a veteran of World War II), Mike McCormack, John Freed and Peter Hummer.

The small crowd of pros and supporters was hushed as the national anthem played. Then it was time to begin the golf marathon.    

The pros were divided into two groups, one group teed off at the first hole, the other at the 10th hole. Participating pros in Group 1 were Brett Thomaswick of Sandpiper Bay; Jeff Pianelli of Rivers Edge; Mark Brooks, representing Nike; Mike Benson of The Pearl Golf Links; and Brandon Harrian of Sandpiper Bay.

Group 2 was Mike Buccerone, president of East Coast Golf Management; Jimmy Biggs of Crow Creek; Sebastian Beecroft (son of Steve Beecroft, director of Golf at Carolina National), representing Carolina National; Mike Binder, representing AHEAD USA; and Jeff Davis of Sea Trail. 

Donors had pledged support for each golfer hole by hole, some paying extra for birdies and eagles scored.  

I watched as the pros played and was amazed at how fast and accurately they struck the ball. Each golfer had a cart. They all wore red, white and blue clothing, supplied by Mark Brooks of Nike (golf balls and slacks), Mike Binder of AHEAD USA (shirts and hats). Even their performance underwear was supplied by Jack Curry of 2Undr.    

At the halfway mark, the pros were still swinging with gusto even after playing more than 50 holes. I watched as a group hit their tee shots at No. 15, a par 3 that had the tee boxes set at 170 yards.

All five players landed on the green, some within birdie distance. 

As the pros played, they bantered among themselves. Some joked. At one point, Brett Thomaswick did a yoga stretch, holding his leg over his head to ease his stiff back.

“I do a Hot Yoga class and I find it helps my game. I’ve lost weight and I’m more flexible now,” he said. “The temperature in the room when we do our poses is over 100 degrees.”

“No thanks,” chorused the rest of the group and they scurried off to the next tee box.

Chap Hutchinson lives in Surfside Beach near Mark Brooks, the Nike rep who played in the event. Hutchinson drove Brooks’ cart while he played. He was on the course for more than 12 hours, keeping up a lively banter with the pros and cheering them on.

“I wanted to help and this is fun,” Hutchinson said. “Mr. Brooks got me a new pair of Nikes for volunteering.” He pointed at a brand new pair of orange and blue sneakers and smiled broadly.

As the sun began to set, the pros came within sight of the clubhouse, the 70 supporters who had gathered on the veranda began cheering and continued cheering fervently until the last putt was sunk.

One unexpected event was still to take place and most of the pros knew nothing about it until the very end.

As all 10 PGA pros lined up in front of the clubhouse veranda, 10 members of Rivers Edge sidled up behind them with buckets of ice water. The pros suddenly knew what was coming and, like the good sports that they are, each dedicated the moment to ALS research and called upon a fellow pro or associate to continue the Ice Bucket Challenge.  

As the pros changed shirts and headed home, they were a tired but happy lot and many reflected on the significance of the 100-hole challenge.

“We are so happy to be here and you can see it on the faces of the participants, Buccerone said. “We’re only playing golf, but others have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We’re proud to be part of Folds of Honor.”

Gene Weldon, a PGA life member, was on hand for the event. “This was a class act from start to finish,” he said. “From the national anthem this morning at dawn, to the finish as the sun set. I’m a Navy veteran and I am very proud of our PGA pros for what they’ve done here.”     

It all started in July when Biggs and Pianelli decided to try the Folds of Honor 100 Holes of Golf Challenge.

“As soon as we told the other pros about it, they wanted in,” Pianelli said. “After that, it gathered momentum and we had 10 pros playing 100 holes. We had a large crowd cheering for them.”

He reflected about what it was like to play 100 holes in one 12-hour period.  

“We all tried hard to make those birdies but after a while, our shots did not go as planned,” he said. “Most of the guys kept up their long game, but the short game fell apart. I could not feel my hands when I chipped and putted during the last few holes.”

Davis was delighted with the response from Sea Trail. “I’m not good at asking for money,” he said, “but we put it out to our members and the checks and the pledges came pouring in. I was hoping to raise $1,000, but the money kept coming in, and today I had over $2,800 pledged to me.”

Without a final tally, Pianelli estimated $16,000 was raised Saturday.

“The members of the Marathon Team and the staff at Rivers Edge would like to thank all our members, guests, staff, friends and family for supporting our efforts for the Folds of Honor Patriot Golf Day 100-Hole Marathon,” he said. The team would like to thank all of those brave men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces. We were honored to endure this mental and physical test for them as they have gone above and beyond for all of us.”    


Golf Gab groaner

I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger, then it hit me.

What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.

Broken pencils are pointless.

A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

(Submitted by Mary Lou Montanari.)


Elsa Bonsteinis a golf columnist for the Beacon. Reach her at elanbon@atmc.net. Follow her at facebook.com/elsa.bonstein. Her website is elsabonstein.com.