Olympic golf tournament sets sights on 2010 

Olympic veterans from Whistler and Vancouver back athlete fundraiser

In its fourth year, the Canadian Olympic Golf Tournament in Whistler typically raises about $35,000 for the Canadian Olympic Athlete grant program.

With the announcement that Vancouver and Whistler will host the Winter Games in 2010, the tournament has gained some momentum this year, with organizers expecting to raise close to $100,000. The addition of two new presenting partners, Bell Canada and RBC Financial, is a large part of the reason.

The event has also grown in size this year, with rounds of golf at both the Whistler Golf Club and Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Course on Friday, Sept. 12 and Saturday, Sept. 13 respectively. The gala dinner with live auction and awards will take place on Friday night at the Westin Resort and Spa.

While most of the spots have been snapped up by sponsoring corporations, individual tickets are still available for $500 per person, first come, first served.

While two days of golf and a gala dinner is a good draw, what makes the tournament so interesting is the fact that the event includes more than 25 active and retired Olympic and Paralympic athletes from the Vancouver and Whistler area.

From Whistler, the list includes Steve Podborski (alpine skiing), Rob Boyd (alpine skiing), Ross Rebagliati (snowboarding), Nancy Greene Raine (alpine skiing), Tami Bradley (freestyle skiing), and Al Kristmanson (men’s basketball).

Other athletes on the list include Marion Lay (swimming), Anna Fraser Sproule (freestyle skiing), Chris Lori (bobsled), Kathy Kreiner-Phillips (alpine skiing), David Ford (whitewater kayak), Blair Horn (rowing), Lori Fung (rhythmic gymnastics), Robert Esmie (track and field), Lynn Williams (track and field), Derek Porter (rowing), Leslie Cliff (swimming), Daniel Wesley (Paralympic alpine skiing), Heather David (rowing), Sue Gardiner (water polo), Misty Thomas (women’s basketball), Gred Edgelow (wrestling), Ian Soellner (modern pentathlon), Margareet Langford (whitewater kayak), Ryan Johnson (freestyle skiing), Kelly Smith (Paralympic track and field), Chris Farstad (bobsled), Janet Nutter (diving) and Patrick Jarvis (Paralympic track and field).

As the head pro for Whistler Golf Course and a former member of Canada’s national basketball team, Al Kristmanson takes a special interest in the tournament.

"For me, as a past Olympian, it’s important to be able to raise money to help fund our athletes," he said.

"There’s no doubt about it that too many athletes are retiring earlier than they should or would like because they can’t afford to compete anymore. There comes a point where you have to stop living off your Visa card."

When Kristmanson retired from the national team in 1992, he received just $550 a month, the highest level of support given to any athlete in Canada.

"It was a tough go, and just a huge commitment to stay with the national team all those years," said Kristmanson. "So if I can help an athlete by helping to fund their training, I’m all for it. The more money we raise the better. It makes a difference."

The athletes will be celebrated at the beginning of the tournament with a torch and flag ceremony, and then will be added to participating teams.

Kristmanson will help out all of the teams in the tournament with a tee shot of his own on the first hole – many of the Olympic athletes invited aren’t known for their golfing abilities, he said.

The format for the tournament is a Texas Scramble, in which every member of a team of four hits from the same spot on every shot, and teams compete against one another for the lowest score.

Kristmanson says he welcomes the 2010 Olympics and the added attention and funding for Olympic athletes.

"It’s opened up a whole new opportunity to go out in search of sponsorships, because everybody wants to be a part of this. We’ve got less than seven years to crank up the level of support, and then the Games are coming to Whistler," said Kristmanson. "If we’re going to be competitive at home, then we really have to start now, and really focus on our athletes and making sure they have everything they need to compete."

Including athletes in the tournament and pairing them with teams gives them a chance to tell people their stories, said Kristmanson, capturing their imaginations while letting them know just how much their contributions are needed and appreciated.

The gala dinner reception includes both a silent and a live auction, and tickets are available separately for this event.

Hosted by the Canadian Olympic Committee, contact tournament co-ordinator Jean Forrest at 604-730-7223 or cocgolf@pacificsport.com.

Tax receipts will be issued to all participants.

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