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The First Tee Walmart Invitational deemed a success

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

The first major fundraiser for The First Tee of Brunswick County raised more than $50,000 for the local chapter.

Played Sept. 23 at The Thistle Golf Club in Calabash, The First Tee Walmart Invitational Golf Tournament pulled teams and individual golfers from Wilmington to Myrtle Beach, S.C. All three Brunswick County Walmart stores sponsored the event, with Brent Guice of the Shallotte store acting as liaison. Walmart is a major national sponsor of The First Tee.

Visiting dignitaries from the home office of The First Tee included Joe Louis Barrow, Jr., chief executive officer of The First Tee; Tony Powell, director of the Central Atlantic Region of The First Tee; and Richard Heysek, director of development.

“Many thanks to Bob Jones, board member of The First Tee and chairman of the event, for pulling this all together,” said Al Arrigoni, executive director of The First Tee of Brunswick County. “We also thank The Thistle Golf Club, our board of directors, Walmart and the community at large for their tremendous support. Without them, this could not happen.”

First-place honors, with a score of 129 in a match of cards, went to The Burroughs and Chapin Golf Management Team of Bob Swezey, Archie Lemon, Mike Buccerone and Randy Allen. Second place with another score of 129 was taken by Sam Johnston, John Zelewski, Mike Mateo and Rick Richards. Third place went to the BEMC team of Don Hughes, Tim Dean, Terry Vereern and Sam Townsend. They scored a 130 in the better ball shamble format.

Closest to the pin was won by Elsa Bonstein, Lyles Turner, Sam Johnson and Kevin O’Connor.

Bob Jones, chairman of the event, was pleased with the results.

“The important thing here is developing and supporting our kids as they learn the Nine Core Values of The First Tee,” he said. “These values, once learned, will have a positive impact on the next generation. The First Tee is not just golf. It’s about learning life skills and core values that will help our youth throughout their lives.”

Jones has agreed to chair the tournament for next year.

Rusty Petrea, founder with his wife, Carol, of The First Tee of Brunswick County, said, “The proceeds from this tournament will help our program expand. We have plans to improve and enlarge our home course, to add more teaching affiliates so that we can reach more Brunswick County children. In addition, we are looking at the possibility of building a dorm and meeting facility at Cinghiale Creek, our home course. We also need vans or buses to bring the children of working parents to our facility and to our programs, which are scattered all over Brunswick County at our various affiliate courses.”

Gene Weldon, director of golf at The Thistle and member of the organizing committee said, “The Thistle has already agreed to host this event next year. The date has been set as Sept. 22, 2009. We’re excited because as the tournament expands and continues, the big winners will be our kids.”

ELSA BONSTEIN is a golf columnist for the Beacon. Reach her at elanbon@atmc.net.