For 37 years, the Bull City Open Golf Championship has been a two-day weekend event in early August.
It is hosted by the Bull City Golf Club in Durham, a nonprofit organization founded in 1975 on the front porch of the Hillandale Golf Course by five men: Robert Norwood, Alfred Richardson, Louis Devone, James Atkins and George Smith.
Despite its longevity, each year the tournament has struggled to secure sponsorships and funding. The club became a 501(c)3 in the hopes of snagging a major co-sponsor to be able to give even more funding to charities, but to no avail.
The biggest contributors over the years have been the Big Four, Smith said: Measurement Inc.; Hendrick Durham Auto Mall; Kerr Care for Kids; and Perry, Perry and Perry Law Firm.
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Many small businesses in the community also supported the tournament and the club, which somehow always managed to pull the event off.
Until this year.
Due to the continuing lack of a co-sponsor and the lingering effects of the recent recession, the two-day tourney has been cancelled and replaced with a one-day, three-man Captains Choice to be held Aug. 2 at Hillandale.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the event was cancelled the same year the U.S. Open was held in Pinehurst. Obviously, all available corporate sponsorships went there.
The Bull City Golf Club is not just about playing golf and raising money. Club members also teach the sport to Durhams inner-city kids.
Smith told me how quickly they take to instruction, even if they don’t want to be involved in the beginning. At several practice sessions in the past, Smith would point out students who had done a complete turnaround in school and at home just to stay in the program.
And the tournament is not the only thing in danger of extinction. The club needs new blood, especially younger golfers who are willing to become mentors.
Most of the members are 60 and older. Not that 60 is ancient, mind you, but unlike some of our OLDER black political leaders who don’t want to give up their throne, club members are ready and willing to pass the baton.
Smith said they are looking for young men and women to take over complete control of the organization from scheduling group outings to fundraising to managing the tournament.
“I want to say thank you to the businesses that have supported us without conviction over the years, and a hardy thanks to the Hillandale Golf Course staff that has been there for us,” Smith wrote via email. “This year, we won’t be getting the golfers that come from other states, but we feel good about getting support from our local golfers that like to play in the Captains Choice format.”
Anyone wanting more information can contact Smith at 919-957-4457, James Graham at 919-971-5395 or Bobby McCall at 919-599-0129.