By Adam Eisenbarth
Gull Lake Golf Course is gearing up for a big weekend with several talented athletes set to visit the course.
Six pro golfers — including defending champion Stuart Hendley — will return to compete in the fifth annual Junior Golf Foundation of Gull Lake Pro-Am and Skins Game.
The golfers range from Canadian Tour players to the LPGA, PGA and CPGA. It’s bound to be another entertaining weekend of golf at the par 3 course.
The golfers won’t be the only big-time athletes at this year’s event however. Three Olympians will visit the event: women’s goaltender Shannon Szabados, bobsledder Lyndon Rush and Paralympic star Viviane Forest.
On July 23 there will be an adult/child tournament. Cost is $75 for two people to play and it is almost at capacity.
On July 24, a Pro-Am will be held with the golfers, which is open to sponsors who pay $1,000 and more.
Then on July 25, golf fans will get the opportunity to come out and enjoy the 18-hole skins game that matches the six golfers against one another. Admission is free.
These events won’t be the only activities on this busy weekend at the golf course.
On July 23 at 7 p.m. anyone who attends will get the opportunity to meet and have their photo taken with the Olympic athletes and the Olympic torch that will be retired in the Hockey Hall of Fame after the event.
Silent and live auctions will also be held on the weekend. The live auction will include airline tickets to anywhere in North America, Olympic jerseys signed by Rick Nash and Joe Thornton, a store package for the West Edmonton Mall, Calgary Flames autographed hockey bags and much more.
“There’s lots of excitement happening at the live auction,” says manager Eamon McCann. The live auction goes at 7 p.m. on July 24, while the silent auction runs from July 20 to July 25 evening.
There are so many big activities happening throughout the weekend that it’s easy to forget that the event is also supporting a good cause.
“It’s for the foundation. It’s to help the kids go onto university, it doesn’t matter if you want to be a hairdresser, mechanic, doctor, lawyer,” said McCann. The foundation assists golfers in the junior program with scholarships.
In only its fifth year, the tournament has sparked a lot of interest and the foundation has already helped about 20 students with scholarships.
“It’s been very popular in the past. We’ve had 350 to 400 people out to watch it,” McCann said.
As for the golfers, while you might think they could simply breeze through the small course, McCann says it’s an enjoyable challenge for the group.
“They actually love the golf course even though it’s a par 3 course. It’s a challenge hitting the greens and (reading) the undulation and rolls of the greens. It’s a challenging little event for them.”
Because of what the foundation offers to young golfers, McCann says there’s no shortage of interest in joining, though there is a limit.
“Every year it seems after this event, we get lots of phone calls from around central Alberta asking, ‘How do we get into this event?’ I have always said the only way you ever get into our junior program is if there are ever openings. That being said, we always give the children from the year before, the opportunity to come back or if they have brothers and sisters that want to join, they get the first opportunity to come back. So we have no shortage of signing people up for the program.”
The program has had up to about 90 members in the past but has cut back to about 70 to give golfers a better learning opportunity in lessons.
McCann always looks forward to the event but says this year should be a very special one.
“In the five years that we’ve run this, I think this is one of the nicest years where our golf course will be in mint condition. The rains have showed up at the right time, the sun has shone on the right days, so our course will be as good a course as they will see it.”
It’s sure to be another big year at the course, so plan to stop in and check out the action at Gull Lake Golf Course.