Friends of the Santa Maria Valley YCMA rose up Friday in support of the Y’s Rise Up program.
Altogether, 100 golfers took to the Santa Maria Country Club course for a round of golf at the 38th annual SMV YMCA FUNraiser golf tournament.
“This is the second year of our three year Rise Up program,” said YMCA CEO Shannon Seifert. “It’s a pilot program that we’re doing in conjunction with Hancock College and the City of Santa Maria.”
The FUNraiser helps fund the program.
The tournament, dinner, auction and helicopter golf ball drop is expected to raise between $38,000 and $42,000 — money that goes directly to benefit the children of the Santa Maria Valley.
“It’s an early intervention program for at risk kids in the third through the fifth grades,” said longtime tournament chairman Jeff Saleen who is also the Director of Food Safety and Security for Bonipak Producers. “If we can get the kids interested in education early on, we can change the direction of their lives.”
Rise Up focuses on the Y’s strengths — education, nutrition, swimming and more.
“The kids take part in our STEM program,’ said Seifert. “STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — the core of a successful education.”
The benefits of Rise up continue through high school and into college.
“Our kids feed into Hancock College’s “Promise” program,” said Kristina Denne, the Assistant Production Manager at Betteravia Farms and longtime FUNraiser volunteer. “That takes them from fifth grade through high school and on to Hancock and they get their first year at Hancock for free.”
Champions were crowned in two divisions — low gross (no handicaps) and low net (with handicaps figured in) in a best-ball format.
Eight teams tied, with a 14-under par 58, for the low gross low score.
The foursome of Michael Ruffoni, Rick Garcia, Jared Bailey and Pete Compton won the low gross championship after a card-off.
Daniel and Johnny Chavez, Marcus Maldonado and Alex Villavicencio, with a handicap-adjusted 48.4, won the low net title.
Former FUNraiser tournament chairman Lon Fletcher led a foursome that included Mark Clarke, Mark LeClaire and Jim Stollberg to a second place finish in the net division with a 52.9.
Former KCOY chief meteorologist Jim Byrne partnered with Jim White, Ryan Swack and Fred Holquin for third in the net division with a 53.1
There were also prizes awarded for several individual accomplishments.
Ali Kahl won the prize for the women’s most accurate drive on the fifth hole with a shot that landed 13-inches from the cup. Duane Campbell had the men’s most accurate drive on the fifth, coming within 18-inches of the cup.
Former Cal Poly golfer Sadie Strain had the women’s longest drive and former St. Joseph High School star Ryan Blystone the men’s.
Jeff Quagliano won the closest-to-the-pin shot on the 13th hole with a drive that landed four-feet, two-inches away.
There were other fun diversions on the course like Tequila Pong Cornhole — an odd game that combines golf, tequila pong and Cornhole.
Each golfer took a chip shot at a Cornhole-type board filled with cups – much like beer pong. If they got their ball in the cup, the other members of the team had to take a shot of tequila. If no one did it, they all drank.
“It adds to the fun. It combines Cornhole and beer pong but they get to use their golf club,” said Kelly Ferguson, the YMCA’s Child Care Director where she oversees the pre-school, after school and reader programs as well as all of the Y camps.
“The Rise Up kids come to our summer camps, they spend four weeks at the Y,” said Ferguson. “I see their confidence just skyrocket. They are so excited to be part of something and as they begin to accomplish more and more, they know they can do it – they know they can learn anything. And when we hold parents’ nights, the kids get to show off everything they’ve learned. The parents are astonished at everything they’ve accomplished. You can see the pride they have in their children.”
After the final scorecards were tallied, it was time for the annual Helicopter Golf Ball Drop.
Each entrant was given one specially numbered golf ball. The golfers could buy additional balls for $25 apiece as could anyone else, golfer or not.
Those balls were loaded into a bucket, put aboard one of Mark English’s English Aviation helicopters and dropped over a hole that was specially cut into the middle of the 18th fairway.
Any balls that went into the hole earned their owners a share of the Golf Ball Drop pot.
Half the money raised through the golf ball sales went into the pot with the other half going to the YMCA in what is one of the world’s most unique 50/50 fundraisers.
Saleen was the man hanging out of the helicopter for the first 12 years of the golf ball drop.
“But I had back surgery last week and won’t be able to do it this year,” said Saleen. “So Mark English is going to have one of his guys do it — sort of a relief pitcher.”
“And we’re not going to need a mulligan on this one,” said English, the owner of English Air Service at the Santa Maria Airport. “I guarantee we’ll put some golf balls into the cup.”
From the bucket of 500 golf balls, three settled into the cup.
The winners were Holquin, representing Coastal Ag; Chris Hastert, the General Manager of the Santa Maria Airport; and Tim Seifert, Shannon Seifert’s husband and a partner at Dan Blough Contractors.
The trio split a pot of $4,875. Seifert promptly donated his $1,625 share back to the Y.
Then it was time for the awards dinner and auction.
“It was a great day. Everyone had so much fun. It was great to see everyone out here today — a lot of people who come every year and a lot of new people playing for the first time,” said Shannon Seifert. “Rise Up started with 25 kids working in an intense program. With the help of the city, we plan to expand it in the future. It insures that the children not only get an education but also a head start on a successful life. The money we raised today will help us keep it going.”