Since 2005, the community has gathered to support the UC Merced athletics program at the Ma Kelley Memorial Golf Tournament, named after Georgette Kelley, who above all else valued family, church and education.
According to UC Merced Athletic Director David Dunham, Kelley was known for her commitment to education and was an athlete as well, making the golf tournament’s namesake all the more appropriate. Since the college began hosting the annual tournament and fundraiser, more than $330,000 has been raised for the school’s athletics department. Kelley’s sons George, Kevin, Bob and Brian, who are from Stevinson, were instrumental in bringing the tournament to the school over a decade ago, and since then have worked tirelessly to give back to UC Merced student athletes.
The Ma Kelley Memorial Golf Tournament not only provides much-needed funds for the college’s sports teams, but also serves as a way for the surrounding community to be introduced to UC Merced.
“Athletics at the college level are the front door to the university campus, so it’s an opportunity, and for some their first opportunity, to be introduced to the university,” said Dunham. “It’s important for us to be out in the community and have those interactions. It shows that our students are really great individuals and love to have the community’s support.”
The annual fundraiser features a golf tournament, and a dinner with an auction the night before. Speaking at this year’s dinner will be former San Francisco Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky, who plans to share his miraculous story of bravery and recovery with the crowd, as well as emphasize the importance of knowing one’s own worth.
“I want to challenge people to understand the value of young men and women today at the college level, and the impact that this kind of event will have on them for their future,” said Dravecky. “A good community is so important. As we live life, we can’t do it alone...an athletics program can’t function by itself without the support of its community.”
In 1988, Dravecky was diagnosed with cancer in his pitching arm. After battling cancer, surgery and being told by his doctors that he would probably never pitch again, Dave returned to the Giants one year later and won his first game back. The comeback was short lived, however, as five days later he pitched again and broke his arm. Dravecky learned that the cancer had returned, and the doctors were forced to amputate his arm. Now retired from baseball, he has spent the past 26 years travelling to events like the Ma Kelley Memorial Golf Tournament, where he shares his story and inspires others with his encouraging words,
“It’s always special to be able to go into an event like this knowing it’s going to benefit the athletics department, both because of my own background and what sports does for the whole person, not just the athlete,” said Dravecky. “Thinking that there’s a possibility that one person in that room could be encouraged by the words I share is overwhelming. I don’t take it for granted and I recognize the significance of sharing my story.”
“Dave’s message is similar to the values of our program,” said Dunham. “We believe in perseverance, overcoming and being the best you can be through athletics, and his message is very similar to that.”
The Ma Kelley Memorial Golf Tournament is a two-day event, with the dinner and auction taking place at 6 p.m. April 20 at the Turlock Golf and Country Club, 10532 Golf Link Road. The evening will include a reception, dinner, auction and special guest speaker Dravecky. Tickets cost $60 per person.
Registration and breakfast for the golf tournament will begin at 9 a.m. April 21, also at the Turlock Golf and Country Club, with the tournament kicking off at 10 a.m. and a barbecue lunch on the course at noon. The tournament is an 18-hole, four-person shamble, and a new car from Merced Honda is up for grabs for anyone who hits a hole-in-one. The cost for the tournament is $150 per person, or $600 for a four-person team.
To buy tickets for the dinner and auction or register to play in the tournament, visit www.giving.ucmerced.edu.