For Immediate Release: July 24, 2008

Hole-in-one highlights another successful BUAC golf tournament

By Kelly Haslinger

Tom Talbot’s biggest fear is to have a hole-in-one when he plays a round of golf by himself. He says no one will believe him.

But on Thursday, June 5, there were plenty of witnesses at The Links at Hiawatha Landing to see him sink a hole-in-one, his second ever, on the prize-winning 17th hole during the 2008 Binghamton University Athletic Club/United Auto Supply Golf Tournament. And his perfect stroke came with more than just feelings of pride. Talbot’s shot earned him a car, or its cash value, courtesy of Royal Automotive in Owego.

The BUAC golf tournament has been attracting avid golfers and supportive sponsors and donors from the area for 19 years, and this year, participants traveled from outside the region’s limits to take part in one of Binghamton’s premier golf events.

To call it “premier” is not just a marketing slogan to reel in more golfers – that is just what people are calling it. Talbot, 68, combined with his team for a 13-under-par 59 to win the tournament. And though he did ace the 17th for the cash value of a car, the first golfer ever to do so in tournament history, Talbot said that was just “icing on the cake."

“Had we not won the car, we still would’ve had a good time,” Talbot said. Not only did he say all participants had a great time, but according to Talbot, even those who have never played in Binghamton’s golf tournament are saying it’s the best around.

While it’s important that the tournament participants have a great experience, the goal of the tournament is never lost; raising funds to enhance the experience of Binghamton University’s student-athletes both on and off the playing surface.

The BUAC/United Auto Supply Golf Tournament is one of the athletic department’s primary fundraisers. This year's tournament saw 240 participants, a 24-person leap from last year’s event. But the jump in the number of tournament golfers does not even compare to the increase in net revenue, up over 140 percent, that will be dispensed among Binghamton’s 21 NCAA Division I athletic teams.

So what does that mean exactly? Where does the money go when it’s donated to the athletic department? According to Chris Lewis, Binghamton’s Director of Athletic Development, money goes into the department’s budget and then is dispersed among the 21 Division I teams by Director of Athletics Joel Thirer.

Once the coaches have their budgets, they decide how to spend that money during the year, based on specific needs of their respective programs. Expenses can range from things like hotel rooms and buses, to meals, travel bags and equipment. These purchases go a long way when helping student-athletes succeed on the field and in the classroom.

Athletes at Binghamton face just as many pressures in the classroom as they do on the field. But they have proved they can handle the workload. The men’s soccer team ranked fourth out of 202 teams across the country for team GPA (3.26) during the 2006-07 academic year - the second consecutive year the team has been ranked among the nation's elite.

The Binghamton men’s soccer team has won two America East Conference titles during the past five years. For as well as Binghamton’s teams do on field, or the court or track or even on the mat, it is their commitment to achieving outside of sports that attracts donors, fans and community members to support a school and athletics program that is truly on the rise.

“My primary motivation for supporting BU is based on the student-athletes that I’ve met over the years … they are very bright and motivated to be future community leaders,” said Paul Huff, a BUAC Board member. Huff, who owns Huff Ice Cream, is also on the golf committee and has been participating in the golf tournament for five years.

United Auto Supply’s title sponsorship and the increased amount of donor support allows Binghamton University to create more opportunities for scholarships and other initiatives that will continue to raise the caliber of its student-athletes.

An added benefit to sponsoring or donating to the athletic department by participating in the tournament, is to meet some of the athletes whose lives you are affecting.

Jeff Wolniewicz, a BU golfer who recently graduated, teamed up with United Auto Supply golfers, while other BU golfers ran putting and par 3 contests. Wolniewicz will be returning to Binghamton’s graduate school this fall to complete his MBA and said he will “absolutely” be playing in next year’s tournament. Wolniewicz represented all the student-athletes who are grateful to be competing at the Division I level, a dream that often many young athletes only hope will one day come true.

“It was great to meet the guys and to say thank you, to say how much it means to us (the athletes),” Wolniewicz said. “The money they put up to sponsor the event, it goes a long way.”

Of course, a few birdies to say thanks doesn’t hurt either…

Those who didn’t get the chance to play with a BU golfer met some of the student-athletes at the first annual pre-event celebrity mixer on June 4. Rory Quiller, BU’s first NCAA Division I Champion, spoke, men’s basketball coach Kevin Broadus previewed what’s on the horizon for his team, while sponsors, donors and BUAC Board members feasted on hors d’oeuvres.

The crowd was also entertained by the head coach of Seton Hall University’s men’s basketball team. Bobby Gonzalez, a Binghamton native, recognized the importance of a well-run administration and the results that come from fundraising and investing in a program and its future.

“(When) you put money in, and people get excited, and then you hire the right guy (Broadus), you win championships,” Gonzalez said.

But money only goes so far. Everyone knows Duke and its basketball team. Yes, they have talented players, but there’s something to be said when you tour the famous gym and it’s covered with photos of fans camped outside the building the night before tickets go on sale for a big game.

Gonzalez put it simply when he said “there is such a thing as good momentum.

“And when good momentum takes hold, there’s nothing like it. You can do incredible things.”

The BUAC/United Auto Supply tournament is about building a future and making history. It is an attempt to inspire the “Division I” in everybody. But let’s be honest. The tournament isn’t “premier” just because of the quality speakers, although that is part of it. It’s all about the prizes.

During the two-day event most of the participants entered raffle drawings and bid at the silent auctions. Approximately 150 gifts, donated by the community and pro sports teams, were distributed. Golfers also qualified for gifts in appreciation of their donations. It wouldn’t be a golf tournament without Titleist golf balls, a Nike shirt and Titleist hat. As sponsorship levels increased, you could be eligible for a travel bag or even Adidas golf shoes.

Prizes aside, the tournament experience is second to none. According to Bernie Herceg, The Links’ director of golf and new Binghamton University golf coach, the number of sponsors allows for unique events to go on in addition to just a round of golf. That makes the tournament even more special.

“But most (important) of all, the people that are coming to play in it are supporting the athletic department and the university,” Herceg said.

“It takes the support of the local community, and also the people from out of town to make it a successful tournament.”

Binghamton University and the Binghamton area have already produced great things. Binghamton’s student-athletes have the potential to do extraordinary things. The support for Bearcat Athletics is growing. So if you’re in town, or out of town, and you have even just a little Bearcat pride, do what Gonzalez said – “Come to the games and root for the team."

This Week in Bearcats:

The 2008 Beijing Olympics are rapidly approaching, which means the United States’ top athletes are at the peak of their training.

Even in the midst of all that, Olympic wrestling coach Terry Brands and two of his Olympic wrestlers, Steve Macco and Doug Schwab, added Binghamton University’s wrestling camp to their pre-Beijing agenda.

The world-class wrestlers have helped boost Coach Pat Popolizio’s camp, in its second year under his direction, from 60 kids to 285.

“It’s huge for Binghamton wrestling, for this community. It’s a high level of coaching that’s here on campus right now,” Popolizio said of the Olympic wrestlers coming to the camp.

Brent Metcalf and Jay Borschel from the University of Iowa team also made an appearance, kicking off a week filled with some of the country’s best wrestlers and wrestling coaches. Metcalf won this year’s NCAA Championship, was named the nation's Most Outstanding Wrestler, and finally, was named Most Outstanding Big 10 Athlete of the Year.

Young wrestlers from grades nine to 12 came from 11 different states within the Northeast region to participate. So how did they hear about Binghamton University’s wrestling camp?

“Wrestling word of mouth,” Popolizio said.

The Olympic wrestlers, the camps’ major attraction, taught kids everything from wrestling technique to philosophy on life.

“For them to take five days out of their training means a lot, Popolizio said. “Their time is very valuable.”

Binghamton has offered a unique opportunity, giving young, impressionable wrestlers a chance to meet the very athletes they look up to. Popolizio said they were also impressed with the University itself, asking to take campus tours. Who knows, maybe in the near future Binghamton will produce its own Olympic wrestler. It only takes one experience to motivate a champion.

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