Golfing for a cause: Rain did not stop the Fortunato-Brown Golf Classic Saturday

Published 12:05 am Sunday, May 6, 2018

NATCHEZ — When walking up to the Duncan Park Golf and Pro Shop entrance on Saturday, people were greeted by a sign welcoming them to this year’s Joe Fortunato-Allen Brown Golf Classic.

But once the golfers who were partaking in the event got roughly 15 feet away from the main door, they were also greeted by a sign titled “In memory of.” And the first name on that sign, which sat on line by itself with eight names paired below it, was Joe Fortunato — who died this past November.

“Joe is an icon,” said tournament chairman and President of the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation Freddie Sandel. “He would have fun with everybody. We do miss him.

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“He was the pillar of this organization. Back in the early 80’s, when this started, Joe threw his business into this and scholarship efforts. If this organization came up short in its efforts to raise the amount for the scholarship it provides, he would take money from his business and donate it to the fund.”

This was the first tournament since Fortunato’s death.

The annual tournament is the chapter’s only fundraiser, which raises money for the College Hall of Fame Scholarship Fund. The fund awards $11,000 in financial aid to local scholar athletes.

While Sandel and the organization didn’t do anything to honor Fortunato Saturday — as they honored him in February at their banquet — Sandel said it was still weird not to have Fortunato be there interacting with all of the competitors. But Sandel added that the show must go on. And the event did, with a slight hiccup.

Saturday morning was met with heavy rain that caused the 8 a.m. shotgun start time to be canceled. But instead of calling it quits and heading home, the golfers who were scheduled to tee off at the time were more than happy to stick around and tee off with the 1 p.m. group.

“We had lunch at noon,” Sandel said. “But all the golfers came back at 1 p.m. and was able to get everybody teed off at that time. This was a great group of participants and we appreciated them being flexible with us.”

While Sandel said he was happy everyone stuck with the event even with the rain changing the tournament’s tee times, he did add that attendance was lower than usual. But he attributed that to the weather.

However, Sandel was happy to see the bright and smiling golfers from the Natchez, Vidalia and Ferriday area come out and help raise money for the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation scholarship fund.

“The Natchez and Vidalia area really helps support our cause,” Sandel said. “We really appreciate them. Without the golfers, and even the people who contribute to our scholarship efforts through tee boxes or buying drop tickets, they all help us and we can’t thank them enough.”