Change is in the air, and with it comes a renewed enthusiasm for the future. The 2021 LAFD Invitational is just one example. A new year, at a new location, but with the same old fun in the sun attitude as in years past. This year’s event was held at the beautiful Woodland Hills Country Club, located in the northern boundaries of Fire Station 84’s first in. Nestled in a hillside community, this well-manicured, tree-lined course brought forth a breath of fresh air to the event and golfers alike. Over 100 golfers signed up to play and show support for the Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association and the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firefighter’s Fund. As the day began, low-level clouds blanketed the surrounding hillsides bringing with it slightly cooler temperatures to the area. Still, golfers from all over the City gathered together in the main courtyard of the clubhouse signing in and catching up on their friends’ lives. Our fabulous volunteers, as in the past, set up their booths center stage and began registering the participants and selling golf balls for the big Golf Ball Drop event. Running concurrently, golfers were also reminded about the on-line auction where they could bid and win fabulous gifts donated by our generous sponsors.
At approximately 9:30 A.M., Rick Godinez, the M/C for the event, walked up to the podium that overlooked the fabulous course and began the day’s proceedings. As always, the LAFD Color Guard honored us with their presence, striking the colors of our Nation’s Flag. The Pledge of Allegiance was then recited and the fallen remembered. Sponsors of the event were recognized followed by prayer from Rabbi Joshua Knobel. The resident Golf Pro of the club, Mark Sadoff was introduced next. He graciously thanked the LAFD members for their service and then knowing the reputation of LAFD members, he laid down the law of the land for the golfers to adhere to. Finally, the big Golf Ball Drop was executed, thanks in large part to Truck 105 that graced us with the use of their ariel ladder and allowed the large container of purchased golf balls to be hoisted high up in the sky and then released, raining them down onto the putting green below. Four golf balls entered the hole, with the owners of such winning designated prizes. Winners were Tony Marino ($2500) who donated $1000.00 of the Grand Prize back to W. O. D. F.F. in honor of deceased LA City Firefighters Rafael Lopez and Michael Ambarian, Scott Anderson (Apple Watch), Dennis Gildehaus (Amazon Echo) and Richard Fox (Amazon Gift Card). Congratulations to all. To add to the excitement, LAFD Air Operations then flew over the crowd with two of their airships signaling a close to the opening ceremonies and the beginning of what everybody was there for—18 holes of golf!
Cart after cart flew on to the grass-lined course, filled with enthusiastic golfers from all walks of life. Lawyers, financiers, insurance agents, oh and yes—Firefighters. Each sponsor was paired with at least one Firefighter as they played the game and all seemed pleased to be there. On the course, each hole brought their individual challenges, but some holes, held more. Example was hole six where Andorra Investment Management sponsored the 25k hole-in-one challenge. Unfortunately, no one was able to collect on the very generous offer but it didn’t mean they didn’t try. The Relief’s own, Frank Aguirre gave it a try. Let’s just say the local homeowners were thankful for the large trees that lined the hole and most likely saved them from a little home repair. Don’t worry Frank, you weren’t the only one doing some unintended landscaping on hole 6, nor were you the only one that went right when you should have went left as you exited the course and entered the public street. Is there a driver’s license class to drive a cart on a public street?
Hole 10 was the longest drive hole. There, retired Firefighter Allen Black took the prize by showing all others how it should be done. Steve Robinson showed his skill in the short game by winning the putting contest, while Terry Boyd (#2) Dave Lowe (#7) and Gabe Lopez (#15) took the prize for the closest to the pin on the corresponding holes.
Along the way, golfers were treated to hot food and cold drinks. Some catering stations were set up along the course feeding the hungry and quenching the thirst of the golfers. Special carts also roamed the holes as well with ice, drinks, and snacks just in case the golfers didn’t get their fill. As the late afternoon rolled about, the last of the gofers exited the greens and made their way back to the clubhouse. There, they were treated to more food and a special award ceremony that recognized the top four teams for their performance on the day. Not surprising, the team with LAFD Golf Team members Gary Gatena and Dale Gant along with Terry Manning and Strike Team Shirt Sponsor Kevin Wright walked away with 1st place. Second place went to Steve Robinson, Arran Dahlberg and Anthony Perez. Followed by Roger Camunas, Kelly Faulkner, Kevin Rennie and Allen Black for third place, and finally Gold Lee, Adam Turner, Jim Duffy, and Jeff Halloran rounded out the top four.
Congratulations to all that participated in the day’s events. Special thanks to our corporate sponsors who make this event a reality. They are:
• Healthcomp—Platinum Title Sponsor
• Lewis, Merenstein, Wicke, Sherwin & Lee, LLP—Gold Sponsor
• Bradawn Insurance Services, Inc.—Silver Sponsor
• Express Scripts—Bronze Sponsor
• Ben B. And Joyce E. Eisenberg Foundation—Bronze Sponsor
• Cozen O’Connor—Corporate Sponsor
• Beacon Pointe Advisors, LLC—Major Emergency Tee Pack Sponsor
• Fiduciary Management, Inc.—Major Emergency Tee Pack Sponsor
• United Firefighters of Los Angeles City—Major Emergency Tee Pack Sponsors
• Los Angeles City Firefighters Association—Major Emergency Tee Pack Sponsor
• Kevin Wright of Wells Fargo Advisors—Strike Team Shirt Sponsor
• Timothy C. Reynolds, M.D., A Medical Corporation—Greater Alarm Sponsor
• Los Angeles Retired Fire and Police Benevolent Association—Greater Alarm Sponsor
• Anthem Blue Cross—Greater Alarm Sponsor
• Dr. Kenneth Sabbag, MD. And Congress Orthopedic Associates—Greater Alarm Sponsor
• Kaiser Permanente—Greater Alarm Sponsor
• Southwest Value Partners—Greater Alarm Sponsor
• Straussner Sherman—First Alarm Sponsor
• Phoenix Capital Holdings, LTD==First Alarm Sponsor
• Firefighters First Credit Union—First Alarm Sponsor
• Engaged Capital, LLC—First Alarm Sponsor
• Lagerlof, LLP—First Alarm Sponsor
• MIG Capital—Team Photo Sponsor
• Principal Global Investors—Team Photo Sponsor
• AllianceBernstein—Lunch Sponsor
• Andorra Investment Management—Hole-in-One Sponsor
• Muertos Coffee Co.—Coffee Sponsor
• Ed Billig—Sponsor in Memory of Dennis Mendenhall
Once again, a very special thanks also goes out to our Relief’s Event Coordinator— Juliet Brandolino. We would also like to thank our Development & Marketing Director, Marlene Casillas and her team, Juan Carlos Sanchez and April Hood for all their hard work, along with the rest of LAFRA’S Staff and the army of volunteers that paved the way for a lovely game of golf for all. We thank everyone who participated in the event and we hope to see you and more next year!