Killaloe – One of the longest-running golf tournaments in Renfrew County marked its 40th anniversary on Friday with a second generation of golfers closely connected to the founding trio taking over the helm.
The Killaloe Open was launched back in 1983 as a way for golfers in the greater Killaloe area and former residents of the area to return home and enjoy a game of golf and reunite with family and old friends.
The brainchild of then Killaloe restaurateur Joe Murray, he invited friends Brian McCarthy and Willard (Phil) Skebo to join him in the endeavour and the tournament has not only grown to the point where there is a waiting list to play but has also raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for healthcare and other causes in the Madawaska Valley.
Sadly, Mr. Murray passed away in 2010, but Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Skebo kept the tournament alive and renamed it one year later to the Joe Murray Memorial Golf Tournament.
Succession planning is not only important in business, but also in events like the tournament and this year’s event was organized by a new team of four young men who are committed to keeping the event going long into the future. The new committee is comprised of Fr. Scott Murray and brother, Trevor, sons of the late Mr. Murray, Calvin Murray, a nephew, and Kirk Skebo, son of Mr. Skebo.
Their first-time organizing the tournament last Friday went off without a hitch and it appears the foursome is off to a great start.
Prior to Friday’s tee-off, Mr. McCarthy recalled how the tournament was launched, paying tribute to Mr. Murray for coming up with an idea that has turned into a four-decade event.
“Joe decided that we should get a tournament for Killaloe and the first tournament we had there were 28 people in it and now we cut it off at 195,” he said.
Back then, there were only a handful of golf courses in Renfrew County and then for the first 25 years, golfers played the Renfrew Golf Club course. The Homestead at Wolf Ridge, just west of Killaloe, opened 20 years ago as a nine-hole course and three years later it expanded to 18 and that’s when the organizers brought the tournament home.
It didn’t take long for the tournament to become one of the most popular in the county. Within five years, people were putting their name on a waiting list hoping they would be able to join in the fun.
“People still phone me to get in,” Mr. McCarthy said, estimating about 240 people would play if that number could be accommodated.
This year, the number was capped at 186 because there were no more golf carts available.
Originally intended as a fun event with a friends reunion twist to it, one of the bonuses of the tournament was that it also generated some nice profits as it grew. Mr. McCarthy estimated that a quarter of a million dollars has been donated to such causes as St. Francis Memorial Hospital, outdoor rinks, the Killaloe Curling Club, the Killaloe library as well as the food bank and other causes.
“The intent was to get people who know each other back to the Valley,” he said. “And you have to be from the area – Eganville, Killaloe, Barry’s Bay – or have been born here. It’s just a big social event.”
Mr. McCarthy said the new organizing group did most of the work for this year’s tournament and he predicted they will continue to do a great job going forward.
”And Joe’s tradition is going to carry on,” he added. “The pressure’s on them. All we are, is elder advisors right now.”
Both Mr. McCarthy and Mr. Skebo are glad to see the tournament carry on and are pleased their recruiting efforts were so successful.
“I would it’s in good hands,” Mr. Skebo said. “We’ll let them go for the next 40. We won’t be around, but I hope the tournament will be.”
Mr. Skebo echoed Mr. McCarthy’s statement that the event was basically started to bring people together for a reunion-like event.
“It’s more of a homecoming event than it is a golf tournament,” he said. “The tournament is a good excuse to get people home.”
He added no one ever says no to playing in the next tournament, adding no one is willing to give up their spot.
Another remarkable point about the tournament is that it has never been cancelled because of weather. The pandemic, yes, but never rain.
“Joe takes care of the weather every year,” he smiled. “I don’t think we have ever had a heavy rain.”
There was some light mist last Friday morning as golfers headed out on the course, but the skies quickly cleared and conditions were ideal.
The winning team was the foursome of Derek MacDonald and Ricky and Dever Schruder of Eganville, and Kerry Andrews of Pikwakanagan.