Tommy Thompson wins 2015 Jackalope Open title

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The month of August may be synonymous with the height of summer in the Western Hemisphere but here on the Eastern Seaboard of Thailand it signifies the annual gathering of keen amateur golfers and weekend hackers alike, all coming from far and wide to take part in one of the region’s longest running charity golf tournaments – the Canadian Jackalope Open.

First started in 1999, the Jackalope Open aims to raise funds for the Camillian Social Center, Rayong, which provides support and shelter to families disadvantaged by HIV/AIDS and also cares for orphaned or abandoned children.  Collectively, supporters of the tournament have provided in excess of 4.8 million baht to the Camillians over the past 7 years alone.

Tommy Thompson holds aloft the Jackalope Open trophy after being crowned this year’s champion.

The Jackalope also strives to be a Diamond Sponsor every year at the annual Jesters Care for Kids Charity Drive, providing up to 400,000 baht in sponsorship each year, which is then matched by the members of the Jesters MC who pledge a like amount.

This year’s 17th anniversary edition of the tournament was tinged by a touch of sadness with news of the passing of one of the founder members of the event, Canadian Ernie Bakke.  Ernie was part of the original ‘Dream Team’ and could always be found helping out at the Caesar table during registration.

The 2015 Jackalope Open took place on Friday, August 7 at the Burapha Golf Resort and was, as always, well supported, with 102 golfers making their way to the course to take part.  They were greeted at reception to collect their Jackalope golf shirts and goodies and were then, as always, encouraged to check in at the Caesar table for the traditional Canadian breakfast specialty.

Burapha golf course was presented in immaculate condition for the 17th edition of the tournament.

At 12:00 the shotgun was fired and the golfers were off and the field moved around A & B courses.  While out on the course, the golfers were treated to the Blue Moose Sports Bar & Grill pulled pork sandwiches, and liquid sustenance was never far away thanks to the fleet of “refreshment carts” driven by the hard working volunteers.

With pleasant weather and not too many hold-ups encountered, the first groups arrived back at the club house in just over 4 hours, with the stragglers coming in around 30 minutes later.  The golfers were then treated to a splendid buffet provided by the Burapha staff while they waited for their scorecards to be checked and tabulated by John Emmerson and his team.  The reception was a vibrant affair, as old friends renewed acquaintances.

Mike Moir (left) receives the low gross prize from Mark Gorda.

The always sartorially attired Mark Gorda, donning his world famous Jackalope jacket, got the presentations underway, with Mark giving an account of the Jesters and Jackalope partnership and outlining how much had been  raised for charity through the illustrious history of this tournament.  Paul Baird, a volunteer at the Camillian Center, then took to the stage and talked about the work done by the Camillians and how the Jackalope money helps the disadvantaged under their care.  Lewis ‘Woody’ Underwood was next up in the spotlight and gave a discourse on the Jackalope outings with the Camillian kids, including the annual-Jackalope-sponsored-Christmas-shopping-trip to Big C in Rayong.

Chris Balzi (left) receives the 2nd division winner’s prize from John Emmerson.

Then it was onto the small matter of the golf results for the day and the low gross title was awarded to Mike Moir for his very impressive score of 68 off a zero (scratch) handicap.

In Division 1 (0-14) the winner was Tommy Thompson with a fine 42 points; this was also the equal best score of the day and led to Tommy being crowned the 2015 Jackalope champion after a count back adjudication.  Taking second and third places in the top division were Simon Philbrook on 41 points and Bobby Driggs (40pts).

The diminutive Jen ‘Butterfly’ (left) was the winner of the Ladies flight.

The second division (15-22) was led in by Chris Balzi, also with a great score of 42 points, while Hal Hart (41pts) placed second and Jez Lees (40pts) third, the latter just edging Bill Thompson on count back.

Division 3 (23-28) saw Bernie Morris on 41 points top the standings ahead of Doug McLean (40pts) in second, and John Lovell (38) in third.

Donnie Barker with 38 points was the winner of the Rabbits flight (29+), three points up on Mike O’Hallerhan in second, while the Ladies flight was won by Jen (Butterfly), with Oy St Laurent coming in second.

It takes all shapes and sizes at the Jackalope Open: Steve Ponter, Doug Mclean, Darren Branscombe and Kim Fletcher are long time supporters of the tournament and the Jesters Care4Kids Charity Drive.

Near pin prizes were claimed as follows: (A3) Simon Philbrook, Garreth Gill, Scar, Oy St Laurent, (A6) Louis Gagne, George Barrse, Matt Millar, Phang Van Mol, (B8) Murray Kerr, Joe Zonka, Usa, (B3) Bob Van Mol, Graham Hurhett, Troy, and Rasong O’Conner, while the long drive awards went to Simon Philbrook, Paul Daud, Bernie Morris, Neil Sandilands and Noodle.

In the lucky draw which followed, Neil Sandilands won a 42″ flat screen TV and then very kindly donated it to the Jesters Care for Kids for their gala party night.

Bob Newell and Jez Lees suggest they each have the winning 50/50 ticket – alas for them it was not to be.

Finally the much anticipated 50-50 draw prizes were picked with the big winner, Tai Kennedy, receiving half of the total of 237,000.00 baht collected on the day thanks to the aggressive ticket selling by Woody Underwood, Murray Kerr and their whole team who sold in excess of 4,500 raffle tickets.  Tai very generously donated half of her winnings straight back into the charity pot.

The final prize awarded for the day was the Jack Levy – McCallen Longest Holed Putt Challenge on hole D9 with the winner Christoph Balzli receiving 10,000 baht and the Jackalope charity fund also receiving a similar amount.  This was the second time this challenge was held at a Jackalope Open and thanks once again goes to Jack for sponsoring the challenge.

The on-course food came with a winning smile.

The organizers would also like to thank all the staff at Burapha Golf & Resort for their excellent service provided on the day.  In addition, a great deal of gratitude goes to the many sponsors, both businesses and individuals, who donated generously to help generate over 550,000 baht in proceeds from the tournament.  Listed in no particular order of donation are: Steve Mascari, Peter Blair, Eddie Behr, Glen Fiala, Joe Ernst, Stephan Hoge, Ken Cooke, Matt Millar & family, Rob Kennedy, Wade Oldenburg, Ray Lepard, Neil Sandilands, Blue Moose Sports Bar, Stacey O’Toole, Murray Kerr, Bobby Taylor, Michael O’Hallerhan, Chris Harkin, Pattaya Sports Club, Cookey Sales, Passions Bar, Ice Bar, Matt Kirkland, Pattaya Pickle Co., Dale Drader, Paul Ovens, Todd Sherbaniak, Mike Peters, Joe St Laurent, Brad Sproxton, Glen Unflat, Rick & Todd Moran, Wayne Ogonoski, Jeff Paladeau, Rich Man Poor Man Guesthouse, Jesters, and the Tahitian Queen 1 (T.Q.) bar.

The Dream Team does a down-down, paying homage to fallen comrades.

Gratitude also goes to all the other individuals not mentioned above who continue to help make the Jackalope Open one of the premier golf tournaments on the Eastern Seaboard.  Roll on the 18th edition in 2016.

Lewis ‘Woody’ Underwood talks about the beneficiaries of the charity tournament.

Mark Gorda (right) and John Emmerson (left) offer to escort Tai Kennedy (center) to their nearest favourite banking facility after she collects her 50/50 winnings.