It’s seldom, if ever, that an upstart benefit golf tournament creates as much pre-tee off chatter as a scheduled charity event has already created at a number of public and private layouts in Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts.
People in clubhouses and pro shops from Warwick to Watch Hill and beyond are talking – and predicting – that the first-ever Aug. 26 “Race for Matt and Grace Golf Tournament” will be as impressive and successful as the highly-acclaimed JMCE (Johnston Memorial Cancer Events) event that recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
“It’s going to mirror our tourney in every way,” Vin LaFazia, the driving force and chairperson behind the JMCE’s unmatched success, offered. “There will be extensive eats all over the course, just like we have become known for; there will be mega-raffles, souvenir bags, lunch, dinner, carts and a few surprises, too.”
Moreover, as is the case with the annual JMCE golf go-round, the “Race for Matt and Grace Tourney” will be played at picturesque Connecticut National Golf Club in Putnam, Connecticut and benefit a non-profit charity as important as the Hematology-Oncology Units at Hasbro Children’s Hospital that LaFazia and company have presented over $150,000 and counting since their event’s inception.
“Our (Matt and Grace Tourney) will benefit the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance,” said David Interlini, who initiated the tourney idea to help his long-time friend Matt DiIorio, a Johnston native and JHS grad and Bryant University alum, and others who have been stricken with FA, a debilitating, generative, neuro-muscular disorder that affects 15,000 people worldwide.
Matt DiIorio, as co-chairs Derrick Gelsomino and Ryan Sukaskas noted: “Puts watching golf high on his list, and we are hoping that our first tournament will help raise revenue to advance the research to cure Friedreich’s Ataxia, so that one day people like our friend can perhaps play golf.”
As is the case with cancer-related programs that help children in a number of ways at Hasbro Children’s Hospital through the JMCE tourney, the “Race for Matt and Grace” Foundation started with a highly-successful road race that has become extremely well-known and has raised thousands and thousands of dollars since its inception seven years ago for Friedreich’s Ataxia Research.
“We’ve been very lucky – and successful – in raising money for FA research,” Mike Crawley, a long-time friend of DiIorio and his parents Jack and Sally Ann DiIorio, offered about the Race for Matt and Grace that’s also named for Grace Hopkins, who was diagnosed with FA prior to her 13th birthday. “We’re hoping to continue that trend by way of the golf tourney.”
The same holds true for LaFazia, and “Team Matt” that includes Marissa Beatini, Kim Crawley and Steven Placella, a DiIorio family friend who chairs the highly-successful yet ambitious Ricky Salzillo Memorial Scholarship Fund Game Dinner, as well as “Magnum” Matt’s beloved canine companion who attends each and ever pre-tourney planning meeting.
So, for people who’d like to join “Team Matt” and play in what promises to be one of the season’s best benefit golf bashes – or even help the on-going research to find a cure for Friedreich’s Ataxia, there are many options connected with the inaugural Aug. 26 tournament.
The pre-tourney luncheon, for example, will feature the JMCE’s signature sandwich – sausage and peppers – as well as charcoal grilled hot dogs and ice cold soda, and perhaps a few other caloric creations to boot.
There will also be food stops on the 6,975-yard, par 71 layout, and as LaFazia said during the recent “Team Matt” meeting in Johnston: “People who sign up to play in this tournament will really enjoy the high standards in service that officials at Connecticut National Golf Club have become known for that ensures for a memorable day for every golfer or event a volunteer.”
Golfers will have use of two practice greens, a driving range, short game area and of course a restaurant and full bar that will be open during the day and post-golf dinner.
Entrance fee is only $120 per golfer and includes $10 of raffle tickets, 18 holes of golf with a cart, souvenir bag and the dinner. Registration is set for 12 noon and a shotgun start is scheduled for 1 p.m. The scramble scoring system will be used.
Golfers will compete for honors in a Men’s, Women’s and Co-ed Division, and “Team Matt” members are hoping the 18-hole layout will be lined with tee signs that are on sale for only $40 and designed to help honor a loved one, while business promotion signs have been priced at $60.
Connecticut National Golf Club is located at 136 Chase Road in Putnam, Connecticut, and people who would like to reserve playing spots may do so by calling Interlini at (401) 255-0178; Gelsomino at (401) 862-3231; or Sukaskas at (401) 413-5494.
People can register as a foursome or an individual and all checks should be made payable to the Race for Matt and Grace.