The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

July 30, 2013

Golf event drives to end violence

Sean Sauro

EBENSBURG — Golf enthusiasts and philanthropists will hit the greens at North Fork Country Club on Saturday to raise money for underprivileged youth in the Johns­town area.

The Johnstown branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will host its second annual Martin Luther King Golf Outing in an effort to thwart violence and encourage underprivileged youth, said the Rev. Richard Williams, the branch’s religious affairs chairman.

Williams said the group initially created the outing in the wake of a violent shooting last year.

“It came to me,” he said. “I said, ‘Hey, let’s get something together so we can help the underprivileged.’ ”

Hoping to promote goodwill and put an end to violent acts in the community, Williams said the local NAACP decided to hold the first golf outing.

“I’ve worked with young people and the disadvantaged all my life,” he said, adding that the first outing, held at Berkley Hills Golf Course, drew about 40 golfers.

“The first year was wonderful,” he said, explaining that its success led to the decision to switch from the nine-hole course to the 18-hole North Fork course along Court Drive this year.

Despite the change in location, Williams said the goal to eliminate youth violence remains the same. He cited a recent shooting along Fairfield Avenue in Johnstown and the Trayvon Martin shooting case in Florida as indicators that the group is still far from reaching that goal.

“What we’re trying to do is get to the youth before this happens all over again,” Williams said.

“Instead of hitting one another, hit the golf ball, and, instead of cussing at one another, cuss at your bad shot,” he said jokingly.

Blair County NAACP member Pastor George Bailey said that branch is happy to be partnering with the Johnstown group to make the outing a success.

“We played in it last year,” Bailey said, explaining that weather had an impact on the first outing.

“It was a real bad rainy day,” he said. “We got about four holes in, and then we got the gusher.”

Bailey said he hopes the weather will be favorable this year so the outing can be a success.

The NAACP hopes to increase the number of participants by about 20 golfers, Williams said.

“We have about 30 registered right now, but we want about 60,” he said.

The outing is open to the public, and those wishing to participate can do so by registering for a $60 entry fee, Williams said.

Participants will compete in four-man teams. The outing will begin at 1:30 p.m.

“You get all you can eat, chances for prizes, a cart and 18 holes of golf,” he said. “You can’t beat it.”

The money raised from registration fees and donations from the outing’s sponsors will be redistributed to those in need, Williams said.

“It doesn’t go to any one individual,” he said. “It goes to individuals.”

The money will be used to fund scholarships and to aid disadvantaged youth, he said.

Williams said the Johnstown NAACP hopes to increase participation and money raised each year.

“If we don’t reach out, then we’ll have the same problems we’re having now,” he said. “It has to stop now.”