LBK golf tourney to benefit injured vets
For Longboat Key Sotheby’s Realtor Mark Huber, sponsoring, let alone organizing a golf tournament was not on his radar when the summer began.
“Last June, out of the blue, the phone rang and the gentlemen said they saw my ad and they were looking for sponsors. They said I was a natural person to start with since I had a full page ad,” said Huber.
Huber invited the gentlemen into his Sotheby’s office. That’s when he met Jerry Cable and Carl Wakely.
Cable is a retired ex-sales manager and Wakely is the founder and owner of the West Florida Golf Tour.
Their goal, they told Huber, was to create an annual event, and this was their first four-day event for their tour. They want the Sarasota area to be a hub for young players to live and play and be part of their tour group. Their goal with Huber was primarily to seek sponsorship.
But the relationship quickly evolved to make Huber become central to the Longboat Key initiative.
Wakely and Cable were adamant about one thing: they wanted to include a charity and to keep the money local. They told Huber that it would be just the beginning; they wanted a charity they could partner with and be part of their ongoing tour.
Huber agreed to get involved but was unsure of which or what charity. He spoke with Longboat Key News Publisher Steve Reid and asked Reid if he wanted to get involved and help promote the tour as well.
But there was one central issue to be resolved. The tour had not figured our which charity with which it wanted to partner.
Ironically, just as in real estate, location helped solve the problem.
Reid happens to live in Sarasota and his neighbor directly across the street is Major Kevin Kenney of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. And while Major Kenney is supervisor over more than 400 uniformed officers and has a family and one of the area’s more demanding jobs, what drives Kenney as much as anything is his passion and involvement in Operation Second Chance.
Operation Second Chance is a non-profit organization that provides immediate assistance to America’s veterans and service men and women who need help. The help can be in the form of mortgage and rent payments, airline and train tickets, lodging, morale and entertainment such as fishing trips, dinners, movies, concerts to individuals and their families, as well as essential items such as groceries, gas cards, gift cards, formula and diapers to families.
Kenney has been instrumental in organizing several retreats for wounded veterans over the last two years. The community has come together to donate meals, lodging and entertainment all in an effort to give back to those who not only served, but were injured in the process.
Kenney said that is what drives him: “It is an opportunity to give back to those who have given so much.”
When Huber told Reid of the need for a charitable organization to pair with, Kenney and the idea of wounded veterans coming to Longboat to participate in such an event seemed worth pursuing. Soon after, when Huber, Cable and Wakely looked into the organization and what helping injured veterans would mean to the community, the effort turned into something far more meaningful and personal for everyone involved.
Kenney then met with Huber, Reid and the tournament directors and it became clear it could be a major and important initiative for all parties. Most importantly, the event meshed well with the goals of Operation Second Chance in providing the kind of respite and experience the injured veterans can use and appreciate.
For Huber, the meaning of Operation Second Chance is clear: “You sacrifice for your family, your parents sacrificed for you and your grandparents sacrificed. There are few outside of your family that will sacrifice for you. These guys went over to another country and in my view sacrificed in a way most people cannot even imagine. It is time we gave something back. And I do want what happened to the guys in Vietnam to happen ever again. We cannot just forget about these guys.”
That gave Huber the motivation to go far beyond what Cable and Wakely ever could have imagined when they first walked through Sotheby’s in June.
Huber said he wanted to do more than just support them with ads and sponsorship money. He directly went to the regional community and found something very important: the receptiveness and desire to help has been overwhelming.
“Every restaurant, every vender, everyone I have asked for help has been not only agreeable, but overwhelmingly supportive,” said Huber.
Huber then spoke with Kenney and told him he wanted to be part of an effort to build homes locally for the wounded veterans.
Next, Kenney created a steering committee and last Tuesday the first meeting was held. The goal of the committee, says Huber, is to build a home and the efforts are moving full tilt ahead.
“It is amazing how within a matter of a month reaching out to the community has been so positive. It will be difficult to thank all those who have already got involved let alone those who are getting on board,” said Huber
What makes Kenney particularly excited is the opportunity for the injured veterans to play and participate in the golf tournament. For Huber, his hope is Longboaters and area residents and golfers spend some time at the event getting to know some of the men and woman who have given so much.
The first step to building those homes is the inaugural Longboat Key Professional Golf Open, which will be held Nov. 1 – 4, with a Pro Am Oct. 31 at the Longboat Key Club. The Open will feature golf at the Longboat Key Club, prizes and an award luncheon, pairings party at Libby’s Café and a professional tour player in every group.
The Open, which seemed ambitious a short three months ago, has grown into what will surely be one of Longboat Key’s signature events. To play or participate, or simply attend the award luncheon and be part of all that will go on, please contact Mark Huber at 941-356-2435, or to register for the event, visit www.westfloridaamtour.com or call 941-735-4428.
Sponsors for the event include: Mark Huber, Sarasota Ford, dr & associates, Longboat Key News, Blue Dolphin Restaurant, Premier Sotheby’s International, Gold Coast Eagle Distributors, Perkin’s Restaurant, Dimmitt Auto Group, Longboat Key Club, Hunter Design Group, and Gecko’s Grill & Pub.