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Golf benefit fattens budget for youth activities

(ran North, South editions)

The sold-out 10th annual benefit Golf Classic sponsored by the Hernando County African-American Club will enrich local youth endeavors by about $12,500.

"It's the most we've ever raised," organizer Gordon Fleming said of the weekend event. The classic, which took place at the Brooksville Country Club at Majestic Oaks, drew an ethnic mix of participants from across the country, Fleming said.

This year, in addition to the usual Saturday-Sunday tourney, the African-American Club added a Friday scramble, with proceeds of about $2,500 designated for the Jerome Brown Community Center in Brooksville. Fleming signed up a full field of 78 while the center's directors gathered sponsors.

The center will spend the proceeds on summer programs for children and supplies for those programs, said executive director JoAnn Munford. Any leftover money will go toward replacing recreational equipment at the center.

The estimated $10,000 in proceeds from the Saturday-Sunday tournament will go to scholarships for Hernando County minority students.

The 128 golfers in the weekend classic arrived from Michigan, Texas, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois. From Fleming's hometown of Detroit came 47 competitors - "more than from Florida," he noted.

About 10 hopeful competitors had to be turned away from the already full card of players, Fleming said.

Fleming, whose organizing skills were in demand over the weekend, finally got to play golf himself on Monday with some of the tourney players. "About 50 people are staying over for the week," he said.

The event is a boon for the tourism market: residence rentals, motels, restaurants, stores and shops. When visitors filled motels in Brooksville, Spring Hill and Weeki Wachee, an overflow had to find accommodations as far away as Homosassa, Fleming said.

Business support for the event is not only holding, but growing. "It was wonderful. It was great," Fleming said. "SunTrust (Bank) sent us $2,000. We will put $1,000 of that toward a named SunTrust scholarship and add to it."

Autoway Ford Lincoln Mercury continued as the primary sponsor with a $3,000 donation. Kelmedix Inc. of Spring Hill donated $1,200. Wal-Mart contributed $1,000 as a corporate sponsor, as did Bright House Networks. Pastore Custom Builders of Spring Hill maintained its level of giving at $500. Autoway and Rick Matthews Buick Pontiac GMC offered new cars for a hole-in-one, but nobody accomplished that feat.

"We had a lot of new sponsors," Fleming said. "I want to thank the entire business community in Spring Hill and the Brooksville area for their participation."

As the club solicited sponsors for each of 18 holes on the golf course, 30 contributors stepped up. The extras were displayed on flagpoles at the clubhouse.

As for the golf course and country club, Fleming said, "They received nothing but glowing comments from participants, (to) Vince Buell, head pro, owner Tom Bronson, and the whole staff."

For now, Fleming can relax. Then he will get to work on how the African-American Club might accommodate more golfers for the 11th annual classic next year.

Beth Gray may be contacted at graybethnearthlink.net.

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