■ By Matt McPherson / Columnist
More than 90 golfers participated in the 9th annual San Jacinto Match Play Golf Tournament, sponsored by Golden Era, San Jacinto High School and Grandfathers for Golf. With the recent rains and gorgeous San Jacinto Mountains as a backdrop, the river was flowing and the flowers were blooming.
The vibrant environment enhanced the transcendental mood at the historic site where the Massacre Canyon Inn existed for more than 50 years. Seventeen high schools took part in this greatly anticipated individual match play tournament this year, from Apple Valley High School in the high desert, to Bermuda Dunes High School in the low desert, to Big Bear High School way up high in the mountains.
The tournament took place over three days and started on Monday, Feb. 27, under heavy rains, which resulted in strenuous conditions that challenged these talented Southern California high school competitors. Tuesday and Wednesday emerged as gorgeous days filled with songbirds and butterflies decorating the foliage throughout the breathtaking nine-hole course, while the golfers began to eliminate each other, persevering toward the final round. Monday and Tuesday were split between the two large groups of 96 golfers with the 32 winners from each day advancing to the championship bracket of 64 golfers on Wednesday, March 1.
Over the past six years, there have been three back-to-back winners, with San Jacinto High School graduate Bernard Campos dominating the last two years. This year the finalists were Evan Freeman of Beaumont High School and Kayden Oliver of Apple Valley High School. Freeman went on to a close victory and was awarded the trophy. The tournament concluded with three brackets: The Championship Bracket, The Consolation Bracket, and The Black & Orange Bracket, which is a bracket for the younger developing golfers.
San Jacinto High School Golf Coach Steve Simpson helped orchestrate the event in 2008 along with Linda Greilich, community events director at Golden Era Golf Course. Steve raved about the steady popularity that has multiplied every year since its inception nine years ago.
“The San Jacinto Tiger Match Play Tournament is the only one of its kind that I know of. Match Play is unique and the players love it,” said Simpson “The Tournament could not happen without Linda and the Golden Era Golf Course and staff. Jaime and his grounds crew worked tirelessly to make the course playable with all the rain on Monday.”
Grandfathers for Golf
Tony Viola of Grandfathers for Golf has been a tremendous mentor to young golfers throughout the valley and extremely influential in bringing tournaments such as this to fruition for more than 10 years. Viola’s organization provided all the high school golfers and coaches with a continental breakfast and a hearty lunch.
“Tony and the Grandfathers for Golf volunteers should be commended on their generosity and passion for kids and golf,” said Simpson. “Nine years ago when I started this tournament, I felt like I was on an island and in this thing all alone. Since then, the partnership with Golden Era and the Grandfather’s for Golf Program has helped the San Jacinto Valley create an ongoing positive activity for kids that is unlike any other.”
Grandfathers for Golf provides free golf services for more than 200 children currently enrolled in the program throughout the San Jacinto Valley. Transportation to facilities, along with a T-shirt, hat and even a set of clubs is provided to every child that signs up on their website.
This last year, Grandfathers for Golf generated more scholarship money for student golfers than The Tiger Woods Foundation, and is recognized across the state as one of the leading philanthropic groups for young golfers. Children ages five and six can only sign up for the summer program, which emphasizes fundamentals and coordination. Children ages seven through 17 can sign up year round and are granted free access to the beautiful Golden Era Golf Course, as long as they represent their school while they play.
On March 21, Grandfathers for Golf is hosting an educational event for young golfers at Echo Hills Golf Course. Sign up at www.grandfathersforgolf.org. To inquire about using the Golden Era Golf Course or information for a community event, contact Linda Greilich at LGreilich@goldeneraproductions.org.