For more than 15 years, a golf tournament has been a part of Watertown’s annual Rails To Trails celebration. The event was started in 1997 by Gary Burke, a Watertown resident and banker who was also a former college golfer and club professional.
After Burke died last year, the Watertown Lions Club did what seemed natural: they decided to name the tournament in Burke’s honor. This year, the expanded tournament will feature 18 holes and will bear Burke’s name when the Gary Burke Memorial Golf Tournament is played July 19 at Pioneer Creek Golf Course in Maple Plain.
“It’s just a wonderful tribute to him,” said Sue Burke, Gary’s wife. “Gary was a former golf professional, and golf was truly his passion. To have a golf tournament in his name is a great honor, and very much a tribute to his past and his passion. It also commemorates his community involvement, and our family’s. Golf has been a huge part of his life, and also our life, raising our family.”
Gary Burke was extremely active in the Watertown community since moving here about 20 years ago. He was a past president of the Watertown Chamber of Commerce, and was very active in the Lions Club, at Trinity Church, and in coaching youth sports. The former University of Montana golfer died of a heart attack last June, which led Sue, who is organizing this year’s tournament, to easily identify it as a fundraising opportunity. Net proceeds from the event will go to the American Heart Association to enhance heart awareness in the community.
“When the Lions asked me if we could rename it in his honor, that was my one request, is that we could have some sort of a philanthropic tie-in to it,” Sue Burke said.
In past years, the tournament has been nine-holes and played at B’s On The River, but Burke said the intent was to expand the tournament to 18 holes this year to draw more players and sponsors.
Registration for the tournament is $60. Prizes will be awarded to the first- and second-place foursomes, and there will also be prizes awarded for various contests. There will be a men’s and women’s longest drive contest, a men’s and women’s closest to the pin contest, and a men’s and women’s longest putt contest.
Thee will also be two separate par-threes on the course that will serve as hole-in-one holes. One is sponsored by Poquet Auto in Golden Valley, and anybody that aces the hole during the tournament would win a free car. The other special hole is sponsored by Pioneer Creek, and would come with a $500 prize.
The registration fee for the tournament also includes use of the practice facility with complimentary range balls, electric carts with GPS, dinner at the Rails to Trails festival, and more. The action gets under way with a shotgun start at 1 p.m.
Unlike past years, pre-registration is required. To register for the tournament, contact Sue Burke as soon as possible at 612-269-3571 or at [email protected]
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]