BY SHELTON STARK, GUEST WRITER TO THE TIMES
ORLANDO – August 12, 2023, a day Greater Orlando was beset with a triple-digit heat index, more than 120 golfers converged on the links at Orange County National Golf Center and Lounge to compete in the 20th Annual “Founder’s Golf Tournament” hosted by the Friendship Foundation of Central Florida in conjunction with Chi Tau Graduate Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Players traveled as far away as Raleigh, NC, Jacksonville, Tampa and the I-4 Corridor to vie for trophies, prizes and all-important bragging rights on this torrid Saturday afternoon. Friendship Foundation President, Gregory Richardson reminded the attendees why they were there when he said, “the Friendship Foundation is a 501c (3) organization and because of the generous support from golfers like you, we have been able to provide over $300,000 in scholarships to deserving high school seniors over the years, and we thank you for your continued support.” The Friendship Foundation was founded in 2003, and in addition to providing scholarships to high school seniors, its foremost mandate is to offer community outreach and uplift to the underserved community of Central Florida. The annual Founder’s Golf Tournament is the signature fund raising event that helps the organization fulfill its mission.
Notwithstanding the heat, the golfers came to compete. And there was no shortage of stories about how the sun won the day, and how some teams even considered shortening their round just to escape to the cool confines of the OCN banquet room where a hearty lunch was served, and awards handed out. After completing his round, Golf Committee Chairman Danny Vereen went into MC mode. Commanding the attention of everyone in the banquet room he announced the tournament winners and their respective categories. The Men’s First Place went to the team of Kevin Garcia, Larone Thomas, Lawrence Palmer and Tony Wright with an outstanding round of 46 (26 under par). The Men’s Second Place was awarded to the foursome of Booker T. Harris, Edgar Mathis, Jeffrey Barlow, and T.C. Newman with a solid score of 54 (18 under par). The Women’s First Place was awarded to LaChavious Clark, Ereka Watson-Lee, Betty Smith and Jennifer White representing Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Psi Theta Omega Graduate Chapter. Mike Williams was awarded the Men’s prize for Longest Drive, and Sharon Monroe won the prize for the Women’s Longest Drive. To make the competition more interesting, the golf committee implemented a 50/50 split prize for Closest to the Pin. Participating golfers paid a small fee for either or both par three holes (Four and Eleven), and the person closest to the pin would share that jackpot with the Friendship Foundation. The winner of Hole Four was Richard Albert Jr and his take was $80. Jared Brooks won the Eleventh Hole and took home $70. The festivities did not end there. This year’s corporate sponsorships provided a plethora of door prizes allowing participants to take home additional hardware. Prizes included but were not limited to a free round of golf for two or four players: Titleist Pro V1 golf balls, golf gloves, a player’s golf bag, and many other prizes.
Chairman Vereen made special mention of the 2023 tournament’s Corporate Sponsorships saying, “Mc Coy Federal Savings has been a tournament partner from the beginning and continue to support us. Thank you! Charles (“Chuck”) Thompson from Southwest Airlines has never said “no” when we reached out to him for support. We also want to thank 6th District Commissioner Bakari Burns for his generous support, Anthony Robinson from the Oracle for always answering the call when we reach out to him for support, and of course Orange County Sheriff John Mina, whose unwavering support of our efforts can never be overlooked. And finally, we thank all of you for making this another great tournament and hope to see you next year”!