A bittersweet breeze blew through the course Friday as golfers took their final swings in support of the North Okanagan Community Life Society.
Despite a feeling of sadness, participants made sure the 25th, and final, Charity Golf Classic was one of the best.
The event at the Vernon Golf and Country Club raised $121,355 for NOCLS to create possibilities for developmentally and physically challenged individuals.
A roster of 136 golfers, almost all repeat supporters, took to the course following a caddy auction Thursday. The caddies brought in $11,101, including $3,000 from The Morning Star’s Lisa Stensrude and Sara Lunde. Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund collected $2,800 and City Furniture’s Sareena Nickoli raised $1,900.
“For a cause like this, who can miss this?” said longtime supporter/former Good Guy Ruby Sharma, who has actively been involved for more than 20 years.
Ryan Fairburn, who has played for the last several years, echoes Sharma’s sentiments.
“It’s a great cause, no question. And it’s a lot of fun.”
But after a quarter of a century, the time has come to move on and NOCLS is looking at its options for a different sort of fundraiser.
“It’s a little sad but hopefully it will open the door to new opportunities,” said Fairburn.
Original Good Guy Don Kendall returned for the final event.
He commends NOCLS executive director Garry Molitwenik for the tireless work he’s put in since the first golf tournament in 1992.
“When the fundraising started for NOCLS 25 years ago, nobody even knew what it was,” said Kendall, a former Morning Star publisher who chaired the campaign to build the original NOCLS day centre.
“I told Garry he needed to raise the profile and he did a good of that.”
Now, NOCLS is looking at how it can continue to capture community support but move away from the golf event.
“Twenty-five’s a good time to say goodbye,” said Molitwenik, noting that there used to only be two tournaments in town and now there’s a dozen, all for great causes.
Discussions have been thrown around about a bike event or beach volleyball, but whatever it is, Molitwenik promises it will be fun.
“The big thing is you’ve got to have fun.”
Molitwenik thanks the countless individuals who have supported the golf tournament over the years, from the sponsors, to “die-hard people like Sharma, Danny Miller and Barry Aimes, the list goes on.”
And even his own family.
Son Ryan Molitwenik, of Heartwood Homes, is responsible for 10 of the teams thanks to a bond with contactors, cabinet makers, a former boss and more.
“A lot of the golf tournament is on relationships.”
The team Spirit Award went to Brian Johnson, Norm Brenner, Mike Otter and Brian Fair. Low gross at -12 was Jeff Homer, Michael Sherwood, Norman Kreutz and Marty Steele, while the winning team at -10 (handicap system) was Bob Wallis, Mark Montgomery, Ben Montgomery and Ron Wyrostock.
The longest drive went to Jeff Homer and Colleen Scott while the timed hole at 24 seconds was won by Dave Schneider, Stefan Schneider, Bill Smith and Tyler Galenzoski.
Participants and golf committee members named Garry Molitwenik and his wife Jeanne the final Good Guy and Gal of the tournament.