First annual golf classic aims at

Supporting our retired priests

PHOTOS, SPONSORS

By DAVID MYERS
Southwest Kansas Catholic

GARDEN CITY -- At precisely 1 p.m., Friday, June 26, a shotgun sounded, and the Dechant Foundation Inaugural Golf Classic to benefit the retired priests fund of the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City tournament began.

Some 20 teams participated, each taking off in their golf carts a few minutes before 1 p.m.--like racers at the Indy 500, each heading to a different fairway for the shotgun start.

Because the classic benefits retired priests–priests whom a multitude of people in southwest Kansas learned from, benefited from, and were and continue to be blessed by–the event quickly adopted an air of fun that might be missing from a regular tournament.

At hole number 10, a priest who shall remain nameless approached the ball. He peered along the fairway, studying intently the little flag way off in the distance. He addressed the ball resolutely, concentrating, and raised his club. Seconds later, the ball bounced a few yards, barely outdistancing the large, flying divot.

The event actually began at St. Mary Parish at a 10 a.m. Mass celebrated by the Most Rev. John B. Brungardt, with the assistance of Rev. Mr. Juan Salas and Father Reggie Urban. Tournament registration followed at the Golf Club at Southwind, after which participants were given lunch provided by the Knights of Columbus, Western Kansas Agency, before heading out to the fairway.

At hole number nine, Bishop Brungardt sat under an awning to greet golfers. Just yards away was the green, adjacent to a large pond separating the green from the tee. For the entire five-hour tournament, Bishop Brungardt greeted each team that came by, cheering as the golf balls flew over the pond and bounced along the green, and sympathizing with more than a few whose golf balls plopped into the pond or onto a nearby sand trap (and one that landed just a few yards from the bishop’s feet). Once on the green, a few invited the bishop to putt. The bishop jokingly referred to these golfers–the ones who let him putt–as “compassionate scorers.”

The competitors, with their massive array of eye-catching plaid shorts, were playing their best in the tournament, not for themselves, but for the retired priests. Father Francis Jordan, who had a constant smile glued to his face, was the only one of the 12 retired priests of the Diocese of Dodge City able to attend, however.  Distances and health issues kept the others away.

At Father Jordan’s side throughout the day was Jody Newman, who graciously assisted the elderly priest. Father Jordan celebrated his 55th anniversary as a priest on June 16. At a reception following the tournament, the Irish priest was given a round of applause.

The golf classic was organized by Mark Roth, Development Director for the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City.

“It went well,” he said from his golf cart as he made his way toward the clubhouse. “We had a good turn-out, and the weather was beautiful. We couldn’t ask for a better day. The people really came out to benefit the retired priests. Golf course employees went out of their way to make everything special for us, and I think everyone  had a good time. It’s a great event; it will continue to grow every year.”

Any holes-in-one? “Not from our team,” he responded, laughing.

Once inside the clubhouse, the competitors gathered for a social hour, followed by a prime rib dinner, provided through the support of Tim Schaller, architect, Larned; Ziegler Funeral Chapel, Dodge City; and Keller and Miller Certified Public Accountants, Garden City. (A full list of sponsors are listed at dcdiocese.org/register.) Deacon Juan Salas was one of many prize winners, his being for the “longest putt.” When asked what the prize was, Juan replied, “I hope it’s golf lessons!”

After dinner, Bishop Brungardt spoke on Pope Francis’s recent comments regarding the Special Olympics. Bishop Brungardt related the Holy Father’s words that sports are a way to learn “ ‘to participate, to outdo oneself, to strive together. All this helps you to become active members of society and also of the Church; and it helps society itself and the Church to overcome all forms of discrimination and exclusion.’

“Thank you all for your dedication to this sport and your dedication to the retired priests today,” Bishop Brungardt said.

Earlier, as he sat under the awning along the ninth green, the bishop commented that it was a “beautiful day for enjoying God’s creation, each other’s company, and hitting some golf balls, all for the benefit of our Catholic priests -- the priests who have been celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, anointing the sick, confirmation, baptism – for these decades and decades and decades, for you and your family. Let us try to open up our hearts in prayer and assistance to them and in alms-giving. Thank you for your support for our retired priests.”