Fore! Gearing-up for the 6th annual Jeff Whittier Memorial Golf Tournament

ST. GEORGE – If you haven’t signed up for the 6th annual Jeff Whittier Memorial Golf Tournament, you’d better do it soon. There are 36 to 40 teams expected to participate this year, and the tournament is expected to be the biggest yet with some fantastic prizes up for grabs. Co-organizer Stephanie Kinney said 94 holes have already been sponsored. The tournament will be taking place on Saturday, July 3 at the St. George Golf Club. Tee times begin at 7:30 a.m., and the tournament will go on until every team has had a chance to play.

“We have a few more to get back to us,” said Kinney, who co-organizes the tournament with Whittier’s wife, Rochelle. “Signs go up on the (sponsored) holes. To get that sign, you have to have a minimum donation of $100 or more. We’ve already got $10,000 in sponsorship money collected. We’re optimistic this will be our biggest year yet. We can’t see why it wouldn’t be.”

As usual, there will be plenty of prizes to be won, including first, second, third, and fourth place prizes, along with pin prizes, random draws, and more. Kinney said not everyone who attends are golfers; they love the cause, and they like to be there to take part in one form or another. The first place prize is valued at approximately $500, and there is always a quart of whiskey as part of the prize in Whittier’s memory.

This tournament started with a group of friends who wanted to do something to honour and remember Whittier. At the age of 37, Whittier was diagnosed with lung cancer, and he passed away 11 months later. His friends felt they had to do something in his memory, and decided to go golfing. Then, they decided they would chip in to raise some money for Charlotte County Cancer. The rest, as they say, is history.

All of the money raised from the Jeff Whittier Memorial Golf Tournament stays in Charlotte County. The main recipient is always Charlotte County Cancer. Some of the money raised goes back into prizes, and the rest goes to various charities throughout Charlotte County. Since the beginning of the tournament, they have been able to raise more than $95,000, and they expect to be able to top $100,000 this year.

“This’ll be our big year,” said Kinney. “That’s a big milestone to us. One hundred percent stays in Charlotte County. That’s what I think makes our tournament special, is the community tournament. People love knowing that they’re helping their neighbours. We donate to various charities. We always donate to private individuals too that are facing unforeseen medical expenses. We always give to the food bank. We give something to the animals, something to kids, our private donations. As long as it’s a charity in Charlotte County, we definitely would be open to donating.”

There are three major sponsors for the tournament, including Saint John Toyota, with the donation of a Toyota Rav 4 for a hole-in-one prize. There is another hole-in-one prize of $10,000. Unfortunately, these prizes have not yet been won in the history of the tournament, although one person was close last year, coming just four inches from the hole. Another major prize is a dual membership for the St. George and St. Stephen golf clubs, and this is a pin prize.

Kinney said organizing the tournament is so easy now, because instead of having to contact people, people are contacting her and Rochelle. She said they will send messages telling them that money has been donated. She is always amazed by the generosity of the people in Charlotte County, and can’t thank everyone enough for all they have done in Whittier’s memory.

“People are just really generous in Charlotte County. It’s crazy. It’s the Jeff Whittier Memorial Tournament, but it’s a community tournament now.”

Each year, in addition to memorial holes, there are also honorary golfer holes, and Kinney said they always try to pick people who have made an impact on the community. This year, they chose Frank Clark, a huge sports fan, and Kinney said everyone in Charlotte County knew him. He never missed a sporting event, and was always there to cheer kids on, and Hillary Hooper.

“There’s so much going on with mental health right now,” said Kinney. “Unfortunately, she committed suicide. But, her mom and stepdad are there. They’re going to be selling golf balls prior for the St. George Food Bank. They did a huge fundraiser for the St. George Food Bank.

“She’s our other honorary golfer. There’ll be two signs for them that the tournament sponsor, that we pay to have made. It’s always going to be the Jeff Whittier Memorial, but there’s so many memorial holes.”

Kinney said she and her husband wanted their names to be part of the tournament as well, so they have also sponsored a hole. There are also several St. George businesses that always sponsor holes for the tournament.

All provincial COVID-19 regulations will be followed. Players within their teams of four are not required to wear masks while on the course. Kinney is hoping the rules will ease-up even more by the time the tournament rolls around, but no matter what phase we are in, they will adhere to all regulations.

Kinney said she would like to give a shout out to Whittier’s parents, Janet and Ross Whittier, who have done so much to help with the tournament year after year. They pick things up when needed, buy prizes, and more.

“They go above and beyond to help. The idea of keeping Jeff’s memory alive, it’s really important to them, this day.”

Kinney is looking forward to seeing everyone come out to help keep Whittier’s memory alive, and have a great, fun day of golfing. She hopes this will be their biggest and best year yet, and wants to thank everyone who has supported the tournament since its inception.

“As of right now, I think we’re the biggest charity event around, as far as a one-day fundraiser. We have high expectations. Charlotte County is making it possible for sure.

“Everybody loved Jeff, so it’s really not a huge leap of what could have happened. I think that it’s only going to get bigger.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca