By Cam Huffman
For the fourth straight year, The Ben McGraw First Tee Classic honored the memory of Beckley native Ben McGraw, who was killed in a tragic car accident in April of 2009, when he was just 19 years old.
The son of four-time BNI Memorial champion Greg McGraw, Ben first picked up a golf club when he was just a toddler, and golf quickly became a central part of his life.
Ben made the West Virginia Open field in 2007, and he spent the rest of that year, which would have been his senior year at Woodrow Wilson High School, at the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head, S.C.
He was making plans to attend a golf school in San Diego to get a teaching license at the time of his untimely death.
McGraw spent the summer of 2008 working at The First Tee of West Virginia in Beckley, and teaching the young kids quickly became a passion. So when a tournament was arranged to honor his memory, The First Tee quickly was an obvious choice for a partner.
All funds from Thursday’s went toward The First Tee, a youth development program that utilizes the game of golf to deliver life skills to area youth.
“To have a fundraising tournament named in honor of somebody who worked with The First Tee and was passionate about it is great,” said Josh Bower, the director of The First Tee of West Virginia. “Not only does it help us get the fundraising going, it’s a great opportunity for our sponsors to get a chance to learn more about The First Tee and see where their money is going.”
Thursday’s tournament included 180 players on 45 teams of four. Twenty-five teams took to the Cobb Course, while the other 20 played their round on Stonehaven.
The Wendy’s team of Mike Yowell, Pat Murphy, Mike Foust and Aaron Boggs came in with the lowest score on Stonehaven, while the team of Doss Howell, Stephen Crigger, Jeff McGraw and Gary Fairchild carded the low score on the Cobb Course.
The winners from each course met for a playoff on hole No. 9 on the Cobb, and, still tied, the winner was decided by a chip-off, won by the Wendy’s team.
“It was great,” said Bower. “There were come great golfers, and we likely raised around $20,000 for The First Tee. The weather and the energy were great.”
Bower said most of the money will be used to purchase equipment for The First Tee, to be used both in the area schools and in summer programs across the state.
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.