Tradition is something that happens year after year after year.

And when it comes to Riverside Healthcare Foundation’s annual Pro-Am Golf Tournament, not even COVID-19 could stop them from hosting its 43rd tournament in as many years at the Kankakee Country Club.

The tournament had been typically scheduled for the first Friday of June, but due to COVID-19 Riverside had to postpone the outing until Friday. Nonetheless, they were able to continue their streak of having the longest-running Illinois PGA sanctioned Pro-Am in the state of Illinois.

“There’s a lot of people involved and a lot of brainstorming that went on to make this work,” Kankakee Country Club committee member and golf pro Kevin Fitzgerald said. “Golf is one of those things that’s adjustable and we can adapt. And although a shotgun start is conducive to getting everyone together and transmitting a message of the benefits of Riverside’s foundation, with tee-times, you’ve got to do that more one-on-one.”

The tournament would proceed in a shotgun-style format, but due to COVID-19 that was no longer an option this year.

This year’s the tournament did things differently to adhere to the social distancing guidelines. Teams lined up on either the first or 10th hole with tee-times 12 minutes apart starting between 7 a.m.-2 p.m. In addition, golfers got the option to drive their own carts if they weren’t playing with family members.

Due to this tournament having a long-standing legacy throughout the Kankakee County area, the community once again showed out for another great golf outing despite dealing with a pandemic.

Every year the tournament raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for the community and this year was no different. In fact, this year, $213,000 was raised, which broke last year’s event record by $5,000. All of the proceeds went on to support the advancement of neurosurgery at Riverside Medical Center and $2,000 of event proceeds will be designated to a permanent scholarship endowment fund.

“What our neurosurgeons need are high-tech tools and that’s really what the Pro-Am is for this year,” said Riverside Healthcare President and CEO Phil Kambic. “It’s to really buy them state-of-the-art equipment so they can do more procedures up here in Kankakee instead of having to go up north.”

Some of the money that was raised will be going towards a new robot that can assist Riverside’s two neurosurgeons.

“We are always looking for what the next advances are and so with these proceeds we are going to be purchasing a neurosurgical robot,” Matt McBurnie, vice president of institutional advancement said. “And so it will assist the neurosurgeon on doing what’s known as micro-surgery. It will allow for smaller incisions, quicker healing time, less risks to the patients, but it will also broaden the number and types of surgeries that we can do on head, neck, back and spines.”

The main reason why Riverside keeps coming back to Kankakee Country Club after all these years is due to all the hard work and dedication by its committee members to pull off a smooth event.

“Kankakee Country Club takes it seriously and they treat us like family because we are family,” McBurnie said. “This particular year with the storm having just happened, they had a number of trees go down. And they really had to bring in and work hard to be able to make sure the course was ready for the event, but it’s that important to them and it’s also important to us.”

Dave Tyson has chaired the outing for the past 11 years. He golfed in the tournament, as did his wife, Gigi Tyson and their son R.J. Tyson, Bishop McNamara’s head golf coach.

“This is probably the best tournament in Kankakee county,” Dave Tyson said. “The way it’s supported by the community, by all our pros who come out year after year. This is our 43rd year and we are still going strong.

“I think we’re having our best year this year so it’s just a fun golf course to play, great event, great for Riverside and it’s just an all-around perfect tournament.”

The outing featured a tournament league and a scramble league. Each team included professional golfers that were represented from courses all across Illinois.

“We have PGA golf pros that are a part of every foursome and so this is not just a golf outing, but it’s a golf tournament where every group has a golf professional,” McBurnie said. “And so it’s really a unique event in that regard to have in the community.”

Tournament talk from the participants

• Bob Gessner has played in the tournament for 23 years. “Not only do you get to play with the pros, but Riverside has been really good to my family and I enjoy coming out here to play.”

• Lisa Zipsie, a former winner of the event in 2013 played in the competitive league and commented, “I love the event because I get to play with people I normally don’t get to play with and so I play golf a couple times a week, but not with these folks … so it’s kind of nice to play with them and thank them for everything they do for Riverside.”

• Dr. Sonny Oo, another former champion in 2018, noted, “I keep coming back because of Riverside’s foundation, not only for the donation, but it’s also fun too.”

• Carolyn Joniak, a first-time participant in the event stated, “With COVID-19 and things like that hospitals have been struggling and so being able to give back in these tough times I think is great as a corporate sponsor.”

• Mike Downey, who hit the tournament’s only hole-in-one on Hole 3 stated, “I was playing about 145 yards and I hit an eight iron and ironically the pro we were playing with picked that hole to video tape us.”

• Mark Argyelan has played in the tournament for 27 years. “The neat thing about playing with a pro golfer is they will be as helpful or as standoffish as you want. And so I always tell my pro, ‘if you see something in my swing that I’m doing wrong please let me know.’ Our pro did that today and he fixed me up on a couple of things.”

Other tournament notes

• The Legacy Player Award was presented to Duane Tatro. The Legacy Professional Award was presented to Terry Lowe.

• Tournament competitive league winners were Matt Olszewski, Don Devereaux, Andy Magruder and Tim Schweigert, golfing with professional Mike Troy.

• Tournament scramble winners were Tom Cooke, Jeff Koelling, Kyle Joern, Joe Mancuso and Mike Downey, golfing with professional John Platt.

• Golfers were able to play the Country Club’s signature hole – No. 17, a par 5 also known as “The Monster.”

• The Riverside Healthcare Foundation Pro-Am Tournament committee included chairperson Tyson, with members Kambic, Kankakee Country Club golf pro Fitzgerald, Argyelan, Gessner, Sally Hendron, Steve Lemon, Tim Milner, Paul Reinking and Patt Vilt.

For more information or to support the Riverside Healthcare Foundation, visit riversidehealthcare.org/foundation.

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