ACS golf: years of chipping away at cancer

For over 35 years, the American Cancer Society has been raising money for cancer research through its Warren County golf tournaments.

While the events have evolved as the years have passed by, the level of awareness for cancer research has continued to grow exponentially.

This will be the 36th consecutive year for the ACS Men’s Golf Tournament, which takes place on Wednesday, Aug. 7, at the Conewango Valley Country Club. The women’s event enters its 31st year, and will be held at Jackson Valley Golf Club on Thursday, Aug. 1.

The men’s event will be split into two shotgun starts (in which each foursome tees off simultaneously from different holes), at 8 a.m. and 1:15 p.m., while the women will have a single shotgun start at 11 a.m.

ACS Staff Partner Marie Costello expects another large turnout this year, with perhaps the largest showing ever on the women’s side.

“We’re hoping for a full field for the women’s event this year,” Costello said. “Last year, we had 32 foursomes for the women, and we’re looking for 36 this year. For the men, we had a total of 39 foursomes last year,” which is expected to be about the same.

The relationship between the American Cancer Society and golf, that began so long ago, has grown over time.

“John Zawacki was the first chairman of this event, and he really made it his personal goal every year to top himself, over and over,” said Costello. “Mr. Zawacki led this golf tournament for the first 34 years, and it raised over a million dollars (during that time). Of course, because it’s been going on so long, we have a lot of new golfers (each year). We also have a lot of fathers and sons, and grandfathers and grandsons.

“The ACS used to hold tournaments that allowed for local teams to (advance) to a state tournament based on score, and then go to a national tournament,” said Costello. “But that stopped a few years ago. Now when people come to play, it’s all because they have a love of golf and want to see a cure for cancer.”

While the Warren County golf tournaments may never be able to match the massive amounts of money raised by Relay for Life, they’re still considered among the upper echelon of ACS events.

“In terms of money raised, golf is not our highest event,” Costello said. “Relay for Life is our signature event for the ACS. But in terms of awareness, the annual golf tournaments in Warren County are right up there with Relay.”

The two tournaments combined to raise approximately $36,000 last year and, as always, the goal this year is to increase that total.

“Every year we shoot to raise more, so this year we’re looking to raise $40,000,” said Costello. “We have a goal of $25,000 for the men and $15,000 for the women.”

In the past, the event was able to raise upwards of $60,000, but “the economy hit us, along with every other charitable organization, just as much as it hit businesses,” said Costello.

Each tournament will feature a guest speaker. This year the speakers will be Jessica Carbaugh for the women’s tournament, and Don Cockroft for the men’s.

Carbaugh is a 28-year-old from Clarion, and a “ten-year cancer survivor with a very significant ACS story to share,” said Costello.

Cockroft had a 13-year career in the NFL, as a placekicker for the Cleveland Browns (he also punted for nine of the seasons), and is the author of The 1980 Kardiac Kids – Our Untold Stories.

“We always try to find some type of sports figure that also can tie into the issue of cancer, whether it’s dealing with the disease itself, or just being a motivational speaker and talking about dealing with difficult issues in your life,” said Costello. “Cockroft seems to have fit the bill with the motivational speaking.”

The entry fee is $75 per golfer for the men, and $65 per golfer for the women, and will include green fees, golf carts, lunch, dinner, and prizes.

“I think that it’s always important to remind folks that the money is going to benefit cancer research, which is the only way we’re ever going to find a cure,” said Costello. “It also benefits local patients. With programs such as Road to Recovery, we give patients free rides to their treatments, not only locally, but to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo, wherever their treatment is. We have volunteer drivers to get them to and from their appointments. That’s just one program we have. It’s always important to remind people why we raise our money.”