CANTON — The oldest junior golf tournament in New England held its 65th tournament finals on July 16 at the Ponkapoag Golf Course in Canton. The annual Catholic Youth Organization Golf Tournament, held at Ponkapoag course for the last two decades, helps raise funds for the archdiocese’s Office for Youth Ministry. The young golfers receive corporate sponsorship, and the event receives other donations.
According to Kathy Stebbins, OYM coordinator of outreach and evangelization, the competition has its roots in a time when one of the primary methods the Church used to reach out to youth was CYO sports programs. Though many youth ministry programs have now adopted new methods of ministering to youth, a sense of tradition helps to sustain the tournament. Many of the young people participating in this year’s competition are children of those who have played in the past, she said.
There is a joke at Ponkapoag that when the CYO tournament comes to play the weather turns either hot and humid or rainy, Stebbins said.
This year Mother Nature saw no need to spoil a good joke.
"The first three days were very wet and soggy," said Stebbins.
Despite the weather, soaked golfers — accompanied by 13 volunteers, keeping score and driving carts without roofs — played on. Tournament play paused only briefly for a lightning delay, which lasted a mandatory 30 minutes. The skies finally cleared for the the last day of the competition.
The 175 golfers who participated in the event played in five divisions.
Boys were divided into age groups: senior (ages 18 to 26), intermediate (ages 16 to 17), junior (ages 14-15) cadet (ages 13 and under).
Only eight of the competitors were girls. They played in their own division.
Winners were: senior division — Sean Fitzpatrick of Dedham; intermediate — Brett St. Clair of Newton; junior — Tony Grillo of Vineyard Haven; cadet — Brad Kushner of Mendam, N.J.; and girls — Erin Boyle of Wellesley.
The CYO tournament tradition continues thanks to the generosity of donors such as, Jerry Dickhout, owner of Champion Sporting Goods in Belmont. This year he embroidered logos on t-shirts for free, gave discounts on visors and balls and donated his time to the event. Entrance fees, which increased from $25 to $35 this year, cover very little of the cost of the event.
In addition, the former Metropolitan District Commission, which oversaw Ponkapoag, had consistently donated use of the golf course.
But Stebbins worries that practice may not continue now that the MDC has been merged with the Department of Environmental Management to form the new Department of Conservation and Recreation.
We’re kind of on tenuous ground here,” Stebbins said. “We might have to pay for [use of the course] next year. That would be a big chunk out of our profits.”
This year something else has taken a big chunk out of the tournament’s profits. The Boston Globe, usually the tournament’s biggest sponsor, withdrew much of their support.
"They said their funds were not as good this year," said Stebbins. "We were a little disappointed in that. They've been a great support for 20 years."
The Globe did donate some prizes and over 200 journals.
Last year the tournament raised $7,500 and this year only $2,500.