While billed as a golf tournament, the annual event held in honor of Laura Laws is about much more than what happens on the course.
“This is not just a golf tournament. It is an event,” said Ken Davis of the Rotary Club of Statesville/ Fourth Creek, organizers of the tournament.
That simple five-letter word doesn’t begin to describe what happens at the tournament and the lasting effect the money raised has on the lives of children in Iredell County.
The 16th annual Laura Laws Memorial Golf Tournament will again bring in ACC legends Phil Ford, Al Wood, Dereck Whittenburg and Tommy Burleson. Another ACC legend, Duke’s Mike Gminski, will play in the tournament.
This year, former NASCAR crew chief and TV commentator Jeff Hammond will be swinging the clubs and, like the ACC basketball legends, will be playing as part of the foursomes on the course. And after the golfing is over, the athletes will be signing autographs as well as hob-knobbing with the crowd.
The tournament will be held Sept. 19 at the Statesville Country Club.
At the tournament two years ago, Ford, while signing autographs and posing for photos, said this is one of his favorites. “This is one of the ones I look forward to playing in every year,” he said.
It started years ago to honor Laws, who was a champion golfer but was just as well-known for her love of children. She passed away in 2003 and just a couple of years later, the first tournament teed off.
Since its beginning, the tournament has raised more than $500,000, and has distributed some of those funds to students in Iredell and Alexander counties for scholarships. Fourth Creek Rotary teams with the Taylorsville Rotary Club to provide monies for students in Alexander County, where Laws grew up.
Each year, the rotary club sets the bar higher, upping the goal. Last year, more than $66,000 was raised through the tournament’s entry fees, sponsorships, live and silent auctions, and this year that goal is $72,000, Davis and fellow Rotarian Donnie Haynes said.
Putting a tournament of this magnitude together is a great deal of work, Davis and Haynes said. But that goes by the wayside when they hear from some of those students who received the scholarship dollars. Stories from students who said those dollars made the difference in them being able to attend college.
And the goal of the Laura Laws Golf Tournament is to raise enough money to endow a scholarship in her honor.
To do that, Davis and Haynes said, even those not teeing off on the course are welcome to come to the dinner and bid on live and silent auction items and meet the athletes.
The tournament begins with a lunch at 11:30 a.m. and that is provided by Outback Steakhouse. A shotgun start at 1 p.m. will usher in the golfing.
Something introduced to the tournament in recent years is the chance to fire an M16, provided by Purple Heart Homes. “You pay a fee and get to shoot that gun (firing a golf ball) and that’s your first drive. The guys just love that,” Davis said.
The money raised is split with Purple Heart Homes.
Following the golf tournament, there is a cocktail hour prior to dinner, and that’s where the chance to rub elbows with the athletes comes in, Davis and Haynes said. Clay Lunsford and Friends will entertain and following dinner there will be a live auction.
This year, the auction will feature a unique group of items for bidding.
Trips to the Tuscan Resort in Manciano, Italy, will be auctioned, Davis said. These villas are only offered at auction for charities, Davis said. The accommodations are for four people, and there will be a minimum bid to get things started, he said.
“This is a great opportunity,” Davis said.
The Laura Laws Tournament differs from others in another respect. The top three teams, rather than getting a cash prize, pick a charity to donate the monies to, and that offer is extended to the last place team as well.
This year, two of the beneficiaries from the tournament are the Children’s Hope Alliance and Power Cross.
Davis and Haynes said there are still spots for golfers and sponsors for this year’s tournament.