Gull Lake Golf Course will be a virtual beehive of activity later this month, with three separate events running from July 23-25.
While Sunday’s Skins Game featuring the likes of former and current Canadian Pro Tour players Stuart Hendley and Perry Parker will be the big-money event with a total of $6,000 up for grabs, the ‘big’ winners will be the spectators and members of the Junior Golf Foundation of Gull Lake.
The weekend will begin with Friday’s adult/child nine-hole tournament, which will be attended by Olympic athletes Lyndon Rush, Viviane Forest and Shannon Szabados.
Rush, a bronze-medal winner in the four-man bobsled this year, Forest, a five-time medallist in Paralympics skiing, and Szabados, the goaltender for the gold medalist Canadian women’s hockey team at Vancouver, will be accompanied by an Olympic torch and will give 15-minute talks regarding their experiences.
Next up will be Saturday’s pro-am tournament, which will raise money for scholarships to be presented to various current or past members of the foundation.
Now in its third year, the foundation has already awarded close to $11,000 in grants to 12 people.
The Pro-Am will feature the three Olympians as well as Hendley, Parker, LPGA player Kris Tschetter, former PGA player Sam Randolph, former LPGA member Laura Witvoet, who is now the head of the Wolf Creek Academy of Golf, and Derrick Golf and Country Club pro Brandon Regnier, a Rimbey native and former Gull Lake junior player.
“The Gull Lake junior program has been running for 15 years and it came to the point where we decided we want to give out scholarships, so we set up a foundation,” said chairperson George Smith.
“Eamon and Carla McCann, the managers of our course, were trying to do it all regarding the junior program, so it was time to set up a foundation.
“The first year we gave out six scholarships and then six more last year. The only requirement for recipients is that they have to have been involved in our junior program, and most of the (recipients) from last year had been in the program for six or seven years.”
The Gull Lake pro-am tournament started a few years ago when Hendley — who resided in Lacombe and has since moved back to his home state of Texas but occasionally returns to Central Alberta — was able to round up Canadian Pro Tour players to compete in the event.
“And it’s just grown from there,” said Smith.
The Skins Game will conclude the whirlwind weekend.
“This is the first year we’ve gone to three days,” said Smith.
“We used to do it all in one day but it was very tiring for everybody involved. There was one year that it rained, with lightning, and we had to postpone the pro-am because of the tight time frame. We have all day to do (the pro-am) this year. If it rains, people can just come in and tell stories until the weather improves.”
While the likes of Randolph, who won a PGA event in the ‘80s and twice was the low amateur in The Masters, and current LPGA player Tschetter will be prominent during the weekend, the presence of Regnier will have extra significance, Smith pointed out.
“Brandon is a local person and someone we can use as an example for our junior players as a person who went on to make a living from golf,” said Smith.
“Brandon was in our junior program for four years and was the recipient of some foundation money two years ago so he could play on a tour in Arizona.”
The scholarship money is meant to aid junior players as they graduate to other stages — post-secondary education and trade programs, for example — of their lives.
“And last year we helped a family that had three kids and had just lost their father to a sudden death. We paid for the kids’ junior fees,” said Smith.