THUNDER BAY - An eagle and a birdie on the first hole was a perfect way to kick off the Hometown Heroes Annual Golf Tournament.
“I think that just cost Jones Insurance $300 so we like that for the charity,” said Buffalo Sabres goaltender, Carter Hutton.
The annual tournament in support of George Jeffrey Children’s Foundation teed off on Thursday at the Fort William Country Club.
Hutton and long-time friend Chris Unick faced off against Rock 94’s Kaile Wanzuk and local golf pro, Evan DeGrazia.
“Luckily they made the teams pretty even,” Wanzuk said. “Couldn’t believe they had Evan DeGrazia available for this. But he took me out to the driving range earlier this week, so I feel like we can turn it around here.”
The format was changed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fundraising goal lowered to $25,000. But they easily reached that goal, raising more than $26,000 for the George Jeffrey Children’s Foundation.
“I think for me and my family, we have been so fortunate with hockey and what it’s brought and the opportunities, so be able to come back here and give back to people who are less fortunate and people that are struggling with disabilities and to have a centre like this in my home town that helps so many people,” Hutton said. “For me I feel blessed to just be part of it.”
And it was fortunate that the tournament even went ahead, with many charitable events being cancelled due to the pandemic.
“I think the committee stood its ground and just worked and found something that would work, even to raise a smaller amount than we’re normally used to, but just not letting COVID beating us for a year,” Hutton said.
The event nearly reached its goal earlier this year when it was announced, with both the Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 607 and Best Western Plus Dryden Hotel & Conference Center donating $10,000 toward the $25,000 goal.
Other local sponsors also chipped in, with Jones & Associates Insurance offering $200 for eagles and $100 for birdies on each hole.
The day began with Hutton and Unick shooting an eagle on the first hole, with Unick sinking a long-distance putt.
Hutton and Unick finished the day with six birdies and two eagles, while Wanzuk and DeGrazia finished with two birdies through nine holes.
“Oh man, the pressure is already intense when we started,” Wanzuk said. “But we are raising a lot of extra for the charities, which is what we are trying to do, so it’s a pretty good start.”
“The goal is to raise as much as possible for the George Jeffry Foundation. Rock 94 has had a lot of involvement with them over the years. I couldn’t turn down an opportunity like this.”
The Hometown Heroes Golf Tournament was started by former NHLer Patrick Sharp and taken over in 2016 by Hutton. In the last three years alone it has raised more than $292,000.
An online auction was also held, where signed jerseys were up for bids. And even though a big draw for the event are the NHL stars who take part, Hutton said it’s the people behind the scenes that make all the difference.
“At times I feel like I get a lot of praise for helping out but there are so many things behind the scenes,” he said. “It’s those people behind the scenes that do so much hard work and at the end of the day it’s for the kids we are helping in the long run.”