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Trent Birt remembers wondering how organizers were going to pull off the first ever Charlottetown Boys & Girls Club Celebrity Golf Classic.
It was a few days before the two-day tournament and the event had grown larger than expected.
“Everybody chipped in, in the P.E.I. way,” Birt said, reminiscing about the inaugural year.
He was working as the club’s fundraising co-ordinator in 1994 and had started making some calls to get celebrities involved in its softball tournament. Someone suggested a golf tournament and before long the classic was born.
After the first year, which raised less than $10,000, a few celebrities, including LPGA golfer Lorie Kane and former NHLer Bobby MacMillan, approached Birt looking to help grow the event.
The second year it jumped from 24 to 36 teams and from there the event has remained stable during the past 18 years.
“We grew it from that small event that year to one of the biggest and most successful in Atlantic Canada,” Birt said.
More than $500,000 has been raised during the past 20 years as people drive, chip and putt their way around the Belvedere Golf Club to support the club.
“Without a doubt our doors would not be open without the money from this tournament,” said Krista Shaw, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Charlottetown. “This is an immense support for us.”
The funds go into assisting the club cover the cost of offering programs, hire staff and special activities for kids, like a beach trip during summer camps.
Birt doesn’t waver when asked what’s kept the tournament going for 20 years.
“The recipe for the success is the good people on the committee,” Birt said.
“They’re in it for the charity.”
A lot of the committee members have been involved for 17-plus years. Many of the celebrities and participants also come back annually to support the event.
The celebrity list has included the likes of Red Storey, Marcel Dionne, Serge Savard Sr., Brad Richards, Forbes Kennedy and Olympic skiers Liisa Savijarvi and Karen Stemmle.
Boston Bruins defenceman Adam McQuaid has been involved for about a decade.
“I have tried to stay pretty loyal to the event because they invited me (when I was) a young guy,” the Cornwall native said. “I definitely feel fortunate that I get the opportunity to do these things and I try to do as many as I can.”
Birt said they worked with tournaments in Saint John, N.B., and Digby, N.S., for years to bring in celebrities to play in all three events. Charlottetown is the only tournament of the three still operating.
The Charlottetown event has branched out during the years to include musicians like Bruce Guthro, Dave Gunning, Charlie A’Court and Kyle MacNeill.
This year’s tournament will take place Thursday and Friday at the Charlottetown course.
“This is going to be two excellent days of fun,” Birt said.
This year’s guest list:
Gord Dwyer (referee)
Gordie Dwyer (coach)
Dr. Bill Stanish
Twenty years ago
The Charlottetown Boys & Girls Club Celebrity Golf Classic began in 1994. Here are 10 other things from that year:
• Forrest Gump, Shawshank Redemption and the Lion King hit the big screen.
• Sony PlayStation was introduced.
• The sitcom Friends started.
• Brazil wins World Cup in the United States.
• The Major League Baseball season is called after a strike occurred. The Montreal Expos (74-40) were leading the National League East by six games.
• Canadian tennis player Eugenie Bouchard is born Feb. 25 and Canadian singer Justin Bieber on March 1.
• Canadian actor John Candy died on March 4.
• The New York Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup final.
• Jean Chretien was Canada’s prime minister and Catherine Callbeck was Prince Edward Island’s premier.
• The Winter Olympics took place in Lillehammer, Norway.