Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Rain doesn't dampen Pontiacs Alumni Golf Tournament

For the Bonnyville Nouvelle.

Justin Fontaine and Lucas Isley celebrate after Isley managed to make a long putt on the 12th hole during the first annual Pontiacs Alumni Golf Tournament on May 28
Eric Bowling
 Devoted golfers won't let a little rain get in the way of their tee-time, but local hockey alumni took tough to a whole new level on Saturday.

In what can only be described as true, unfiltered grit, alumni of the Bonnyville Pontiacs laughed in the face of mother nature, defying golfing convention and playing 18 holes of golf in the pouring rain in the first ever Bonnyville Pontiacs Junior A Alumni Golf Tournament at the Bonnyville Golf & Country Club on May 28.

Former players and fans alike joined NHL players Justin Fontaine of the Minnesota Wild, Mark Letestu of the Edmonton Oilers and the now-retired Jon Kalinski of the Philadelphia Flyers, to help raise money for the upcoming World Junior A Challenge – which the Bonnyville Pontiacs are hosting in December.

“It's good to see all the guys I used to play with,” commented Kalinski. “It's for a good event too.”

Golfers raised over $2,000 bidding on who got to play alongside the NHL greats. Winners of bidding war also received a signed jersey from their player of choice. Kalinski was acquired by Morris Mercier for $500. Fontaine raised $850 from Lucas Isley for the cause and Letestu earmarked a cool $1,000 for the Pontiacs.

Letestu expressed that he was grateful to be helping the Pontiacs raise funds.

“It's all about supporting the organization that helped me get to where I wanted to go,” said Letestu. “Being a part of alumni is a cool thing, sharing stories and seeing old friends.”

Club superintendant and Golf Pro Randy Gallop was also auctioned off to Claude LaPointe for $500.
Fontaine said he was just happy to be back in town for a weekend.

“It's my hometown. I grew up here. It's been a part of my whole life,” expressed Fontaine. “A lot of these guys I grew up with – they're my buddies. I hope I can make it every year.”

Just over 60 golfers attended the Texas scramble gathering. Several holes featured fun side games – a “Happy Gilmore” styled putt and a longest drive prize were played on the first hole, a closest to the pin prize was featured on the eighth and 15th holes, and a longest putt prize was offered on the 10th hole.

“It was a pretty good turnout for our first alumni tournament,” said tournament coordinator Robb Hunter, who serves at the play-by-play announcer for the Pontiacs. “We can only hope it grows from here.”

The tournament is the starting point of a year of celebration for the Pontiacs, who not only are hosting one of the biggest Junior tournaments in hockey, but are also celebrating 25 years of operation this fall.

“It's an opportunity to get our alumni together and create momentum going into our 25th anniversary – throughout the entire season we'll be doing different types of events and functions that are going to honour our alumni, our builders and founders,” explained Pontiacs Head Coach Rick Swan. “It allows an opportunity for the current group here to understand that they have a responsibility to stand on the shoulders of those who have paved the way and supplied the tradition to allow us to enjoy the success that we have today.”

With the alumni gathered together, all eyes were focused on making sure the Pontiacs had their shots lined up for the World Junior A Challenge.

“It's quite the showcase event for the community,” expressed Hunter. “We want to put our best foot forward and show not just Bonnyville but the whole region off to the world.”

This is the second time the world-renowned hockey tournament will be played in Alberta. Camrose hosted the six-day-long bout in 2008.

As the guarantor of the tournament, the Pontiacs are required to cover the accommodations of the six visiting teams – coming from as far away as the Czech Republic and Russia. With the entire hockey world watching Bonnyville this winter, Swan added that the whole Pontiacs organization is united in making sure that the World Junior A Challenge is going to be a week to remember.

“It's a world-class brand of hockey that has never been seen in this area before,” expressed Swan. “It may never be seen again.”

The golf tournament was won by Denis Dadrin, Jeremy Gerhardt, Claude LaPointe Gerry Amyotte and Randy Gallop.

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