For the second year in a row the LAFD Invitational charity golf tournament, hosted by the Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association, was held at the beautiful Woodland Hills Country Club, located in the northern boundaries of Fire Station 84’s first in. With a crispness in the air, golfers, volunteers and Relief staff gathered together to play and show support for LAFRA and the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firefighter’s Fund. This was a year that started with a few crucial last-minute cancellations, but with hard work and a cool head, event coordinator Juliet Brandolino again brought all aspects of the event together and pulled off another successful year for the Relief Association. As the morning progressed, people took their posts and the day began. That County Guy—Larry Hoerner – was situated at the top of the parking lot doing his best to organize name tags for all the golf carts that were about to speed away. With a little assistance, he accomplished his goal with skill. Larry was definitely a fine example of a volunteer, showing up to the event with a casted foot, but still with the will to get the job done—thanks, Larry. Larry wasn’t the only trooper volunteering his time for charity’s sake. Noel Murchet, from the LAFD Golf Club, was working up front with the Relief’s development and marketing director, Marlene Casillas, and April Hood assuring everyone was checked-in properly. Running concurrently, golfers were also reminded about the online auction where they could bid and win fabulous gifts donated by our generous sponsors. Other volunteers, as in the past, set up their booths center stage and sold golf balls for the big Golf Ball Drop event. This was coordinated by Relief workers Valerie Lawrence and Diane Vigil. Just like last year, Light Force 105 showed up and provided a platform for the drop. Extending the aerial ladder over the golf course’s putting green, the men and women of the truck, attached a large bag to the end of it and filled it with numbered golf balls purchased by our generous golfers and supporters of the tournament. More on that later.
As the day went on additional golfers gathered and caught up with old friends, while others made new ones. Newly appointed Fire Chief Kristin Crowley made a personal appearance. The Chief was a pleasure to have at the morning’s proceedings, her warm smile welcoming all to say a quick hello. 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 festivities. As always, the LAFD Color Guard honored us with their presence, striking the colors of our nation’s flag, escorted by a lone bagpipe filling the morning air with music. The Pledge of Allegiance was then recited and our fallen were remembered with a moment of silence. Rick then continued, speaking about the mission of the Relief Association and its Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firefighters Fund and mentioning a few of the top sponsors, sponsors such as Lewis, Marenstein, Wicke, Sherwin & Lee, LLP, HealthComp, and paying tribute to the late Mel Keefer of the Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg Foundation. Mel passed away this year and will be sorely missed. Kevin Wright of Wells Fargo Advisors was also thanked for his generosity as the exclusive Strike Team Shirt Sponsor – thanks, Kevin! Chief Crowley next took the podium and thanked LAFRA for the help in keeping health and safety a top priority for LAFD members. Rabbi Joshua Knobel gave the morning invocation, speaking of Noah and his uncompromising dedication to God’s work and comparing it to how we all need to take personal responsibility in this world. AMEN! The resident Golf Pro of the club, Mark Sadoff was introduced next. He graciously thanked the LAFD members for their service, and wanting the day to run as smoothly as possible, explained the play of the day. Next, showing up just a bit early, but still a fan favorite, three air ships from the LAFD swooped down from the sky and did not only one, but two flybys. One as a group, and the last as individual ships. Seemed like they made an extra effort to give the crowd a thrill as the final passes were lower than usual. Thank you, Flyboys!
Now, to continue on with the earlier mention of the golf ball drop, the large container of purchased golf balls were next hoisted high up in the sky by Truck 105 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 Jim Dolan, first; Fred Lewis, second; and Walter Engstrom, third. Congratulations to all.
With the official proceedings out of the way, it was time to start playing a little 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. The Relief’s number one Firefighter,Jeff Cawdrey, was in the very first cart leading the pack of enthusiastic players. Each cart started at a different hole, called a scramble, allowing for maximum efficiency in the day’s play. Some sponsors were paired with firefighters as they played the game and all seemed pleased to be there. On hole one, Jeff Cawdrey started out, his first ball shooting nicely to slight left off the tee. Joe Szabados, sporting his new retirement facial growth started on hole 10 hitting a nice shot to begin. Tom Kephart and party started the day with some challenges, but fun was had by all. The boys from the team of Lewis, Marenstein, Wicke, Sherwin & Lee, LLP, started on 11. Gold Lee was absent from the golf event due to a little court appearance he had to make, but he managed to make it to the after-hours event—thank you gentlemen for your support once again. On Hole 12, golfer Wes Yoshimura drove a nice shot driving it just left of the green. This hole was sponsored by The Los Angeles Retired Fire & Police Benevolent Association. Alex and Desiree from the Association were hosting, welcoming all the golfers with their warm smiles. On Hole 16, Kevin Wright, our golf shirt sponsor, did his best to get to the green, followed by one of LAFD’s top golfers, Gary Gatena, who just recently returned to the course after a little medical care. Gary showed no signs of slowing down as he drove the ball hard, along with the rest of his team, including Todd Tsujimura and LAFD retired Dale Gant. Scott Cleeland of Fire Station 15 “B” sank a nice putt mid-course on a not so easy hole. Other LAFD members were also working hard to be tops out on the course. Golfers like Andy Wordin of Batt 17 did their best to compete. On hole two, sponsored by Firefighters First Credit Union and hosted by the fabulous duo of Abe Edens and Pam Saenz, Trey White made a nice shot, but was beat out by Ivan Carmona from Station 41 and Chris Vilaubi of 51s for the honor of being closest to the pin. On hole 14, another pivotal hole, golfers had a chance to improve their overall score. For a small donation, golfers were allowed to start at zero on one of three balls driven by long drive expert, Marco Rodriguez. Let’s just say, a lot of golfers took advantage of this benefit—thanks Marcos for making The Relief Association the winner there.
Along the way, golfers were treated to hot food and cold drinks. The team of Todd Layfer and Larry (The County Guy) Hoerner, along with a slew of other volunteers, did their best to keep the golfers hydrated. With catering stations set up along the course feeding the hungry and quenching the thirst of the golfers, all needs were met. As the late afternoon rolled about, the last of the golfers 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. Number one this year were the awesome foursome of Ivan Carmona, Keith Bandy, Theodore Boyd and Gabe Lopez. Second place went to LAFD Golf Team members Gary Gatena and Dale Gant along with Todd Tsujimura and golf shirt sponsor Kevin Wright. Third place honors went to Arturo Jacinto, Steve Valentine, Steve McNulty and Tom McLarnon. With the final fourth place team fielding Mike Breller, Mike Sailhamer, Scott Ayers and Austin Rouk.
Others tops honors went to the following:
• Closest to the pin—Chris Vilaubi
• Closest to the pin—Ivan Carmona
• Longest drive (Women)—Gail Sonoda
• Longest Drive (Men)—Cody Reynolds
• Putting Contest—Roger Camunas
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
• Gallagher—Bronze Sponsor
• Express Scripts—Bronze Sponsor
• Ben B. And Joyce E. Eisenberg Foundation—Bronze Sponsor
• Beacon Pointe Advisors, LLC—Major Emergency Tee Pack Sponsor
• Fiduciary Management, Inc.—Major Emergency Tee Pack Sponsor
• United Firefighters of Los Angeles City—Golf Cart Sponsors
• Los Angeles City Firefighters Association—Golf Cart Sponsor
• Kevin Wright of Wells Fargo Advisors—Strike Team Shirt Sponsor
• Southwest Value Partners—Greater Alarm Sponsor and Auction Donor
• 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, M.D. and Congress Orthopedic Associates—Greater Alarm Sponsor
• Phoenix Capital Holdings, LTD – Greater Alarm Sponsor
• American Moving Parts – Greater Alarm Sponsor
• Gene Bednarchik and Valley Professionals Network – Greater Alarm Sponsor
• Timothy C. Reynolds, M.D., A Medical Corporation
• Straussner Sherman—First Alarm Sponsor
• Firefighters First Credit Union—First Alarm Sponsor
• Engaged Capital, LLC—First Alarm Sponsor
• Silvercrest Asset Management – First Alarm Sponsor
• Polen Capital – First Alarm Sponsor
• Kaiser Permanente—Lunch and Tee Sign
• Industry Ventures — Team Photo Sponsor
• AllianceBernstein—Lunch Sponsor
• Sharecare —Snack and Beverage Sponsor
• Embers Foundation—Snack and Beverage Sponsor
• Robert F. Meth, M.D., A Medical Corporation and Marc Meth, M.D. – Tee Sign Sponsor
• Samer Alaiti and Miracle Mile Medical Center – Tee Sign Sponsor
• Portfolio Advisors, LLC – Tee Sign Sponsor
• VSP – Tee Sign Sponsor
• St. James, Inc. Tee Sign Sponsor
• LAFD Sertoma Club – Tee Sign Sponsor
• The Law Offices of Hart, Mieras & Morris, Inc. – Tee Sign Sponsor
Once again, a very special thanks also goes out to our Relief’s event coordinator, Juliet Brandolino, for making the event run so smoothly. We would also like to send a special thank you to our development and marketing director, Marlene Casillas, and her team, April Hood and Juan Carlos Sanchez. Marlene was responsible for obtaining over $159,000 in sponsorships and money raised for the event, while April hood raised $13,379 with the Salute to Firefighters Online Auction. Juan Carlos worked behind the scenes helping with all the computer work making it all possible, 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 want to thank everyone who participated in the event and we hope to see you and more next year!