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Scholarship Golf Tourney Huge Success

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Tourney raises $15,000 and, except for mosquitoes, might have been played in heaven.

The weather was a bit warm, and there were a few mosquitoes, but otherwise, the fourth annual Ivano’s Scholarship Golf Tournament might have been played in Heaven. 132 players, including some from as far away as Calgary, Alberta and Greeley, Colorado, teed off at Priest Lake Golf Course on a near-perfect Saturday, June 2, and had a great time doing some good work, enabling the Scholarship Fund to give out $15,000 to 16 local students.

This year’s 13 scholarship recipients represented all four Bonner County high schools. Morgan Yarger from Clark Fork High; Michael Bonds and Mariel Wallace from Lake Pend Oreille High School; Amanda Burnett and Dustin Lehman from Priest River Lamanna High School; and Anna Waterous, Jeremy Hatch, Maize Oliver, Hannah Vermeer, Callie Wood, Sadey Vogel, Stephanie Bell and Sarah Wills from Sandpoint High School all received awards. Autrey White of Sandpoint High won the first ever best essay honor, an award that the Ivano’s Scholarship Fund committee hopes to continue and enlarge in the future

Tournament organizer Rich Ballard was very pleased with both the response from applicants and the success of the tournament. "We had exponential growth this year," Ballard says. "Last year we only awarded $4900 to a very few applicants. This year, we had 41 applications and were able to help 14 of them, plus give some extra help to two of our kids from last year, Steve Tenuto and Kendall Burt."

Burt and Tenuto qualified for the continuing support by helping with the tournament this year, a new tradition will continue with future tournaments.

The Ivano’s Scholarship Fund was originally thought up by Ivano’s owner Jim Lippi, Ballard and writer Sandy Compton as a way to help kids who might otherwise "fall through the cracks."

"Not everyone has a perfect home life," Compton says, "and not all kids have perfect GPAs or get to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities. We try to help kids who show determination and courage by getting through high school in good order in spite of their circumstances."

The committee of Lippi, Ballard and Compton individually evaluates each application, chooses a number for further consideration and then compares notes. Out of 41 applications this year, the three had 14 unanimous choices.

"We only felt that we had enough money to give out nine awards this year," Ballard says, "but tournament co-sponsor Riley Creek (in the person of Mark Brinkmeyer) learned that we were having to leave five of our choices out of the loop and doubled their contribution to $5000."

Generosity abounded on and off the course this year, as it has in the past. In addition to green and tee sponsorships, players’ entry fees and other sponsorships, players on the course ponied up over $2000 in cash on tournament day, whether it was buying the pro’s drive on Number Six, a chance on a golf round at Stewart Creek Country Club in Banff donated by Peter Weston and Gary Hess of Calgary or a ticket for the "split-the-pot" run by Tenuto and Burt. The "grand prize," awarded by drawing a name from all tourney players’ names, was a trip for four to play golf in Palm Springs donated by tournament sponsor Ivano’s Ristorante Italiano.

In the background of every charity event are the volunteers who take the time to make sure it all goes off smoothly. In addition to Ballard, who puts a monumental amount of time and effort into both the tournament and the scholarship process, Jim and Pam Lippi put in hours of time as well as donate a bottle of Jimmy Gardetto Rosso and a pint of marinara from Ivano’s for each player (that’s 132 bottles of wine and 16 and a half gallons of spaghetti sauce this year, each placed into a special backpack provided by event co-sponsor Riley Creek). Compton, Bob and Peg Barsoti, Richard and Donna Hutter and Connie Ballard also donated generous amounts of time and effort. Connie Ballard, in particular, gets special kudos for bottling the marinara, helping with registration, running the ladies’ putting contest.

The tournament winners this year with a low gross of 56 was the team of Larry Wyatt, Dru Wyatt, Ed Packer and Mike Ballard (The tourney format is a best-ball scramble). Winners of the trip to Palm Springs was Dave Bellomy. Ken Jackson won the round at Stewart Creek.

"We had lots of generous people in and out of the tournament this year," Ballard said. "Our sponsors’ generosity as well as that of the players is overwhelming."

A complete list of sponsors will hang in the foyer at Ivano’s unit the next tournament, which Ballard plans again for the first weekend in June.

"We will hold it at Priest Lake again next year," he says. "We are also applying for 501c3 status, so any donations will be completely deductible. We plan for a full contingent of 144 players next year."

Ballard also plans to add Bonners Ferry High School to his list of sources for applications. "Lots of those kids come to Sandpoint for prom dinners," he says with a laugh. "Ivano’s might as well be helping them, too."

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