A sprinkle of Ireland at golf tournament

Published 12:01 am Thursday, April 14, 2011

NATCHEZ — Beau Pré Country Club will feature a little pinch of Irish culture Saturday at the Cliff Merritt Invitational Golf Tournament.

The second annual tournament is designed to raise money for Relay for Life and to raise awareness about cancer screening, Sandy Middleton, one of the event organizers said.

“Cliff Merritt was diagnosed with colon cancer (last year) and there was a group of his friends that just wanted to do something special for Relay for Life, and we thought (a golf tournament) would be a good thing to do,” Middleton said.

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Seventy-two knicker-clad,golfers are expected to participate in the tournament, whose motto is “a tournament as unique as the man.” The event will be kicked off with an opening ceremony featuring a bagpipe performance.

“Bill Hurt, the former pastor at Natchez First Baptist (and one of last year’s organizers), is a big golfer and Cliff (Merritt) is also a big golfer. They had the opportunity to play a course over in Ireland, so it’s just something that they’ve experienced and wanted to do here,” Middleton said.

Last year the tournament raised approximately $10,000 for the Miss-Lou Relay for Life chapter, Middleton said.

“We would like to do the same amount or more this year,” Middleton said.

Another important aspect of the tournament for Merritt is that people are made aware of the importance of cancer screening, Middleton said.

The event actually starts Friday night, with a cochon de lait (Louisiana style pig roast). Golfers can pre-register for the tournament Friday night and there will also be a putting contest.

Saturday morning, breakfast will be served at 8 a.m., and then the opening ceremony will be at 9 a.m.

The tournament will start with Merritt himself striking the first ball at around 9:30 a.m.

There will be two teams, the black knickers team and the khaki knickers team, facing off against one another for bragging rights, Middleton said.

“It’s just a big day for (Merritt) to have his family and close friends to support his effort to raise awareness and money,” Middleton said. “(Merritt) is a big presence, he fights cancer the same way he leads his bank, loves his family and serves his community, he does everything big.”

Merritt is president of Delta Bank in Vidalia.

All proceeds from the event will go to the Miss-Lou Relay for Life.