Golf tourney drives tradition of supporting Bayhealth

DOVER — For 30 years, Dover Motorsports and the Bayhealth Foundation have hosted a charity golf tournament, raising more than $1 million in that time.

Thursday, 144 golfers teed off at Maple Dale Country Club on a crisp fall day. Before the shotgun start, dozens of golf carts sat neatly in rows in front of the clubhouse, while a few golfers practiced their swing nearby. With a slight chill in the air but the sun shining, it was a tremendous day for golf — much better than the original date of two weeks ago.

The event, scheduled to coincide with NASCAR’s fall race, was postponed Oct. 1 due to the encroaching storm that ended up pelting Delaware. Fortunately for all involved, things went much smoother Thursday.

The event began in 1985 when Dover Motorsports was looking to leverage its connections with NASCAR drivers to help the community, and a partnership was formed with the Kent General Foundation. The racing company already worked with the hospital to provide medical care for NASCAR events, Dover Motorsports President and CEO Denis McGlynn said.

The tournament kicked off and grew steadily, with NASCAR drivers often taking part, Mr. McGlynn said. It’s been held at Maple Dale every year, even though the initial event included a number of amateurs — who didn’t exactly leave the venue better than they found it.

“As I recall, we tore up the course pretty good,” Mr. McGlynn said with a laugh.

Since then, the outing has been a regular occurrence. Individuals pay between $1,000 and $10,000 to be a sponsor, and the field is limited to the first 144 hopefuls who sign up.

While the event is a sporting competition, it’s much more about the charity than it is about the tournament.

“That money that’s raised from this event and everything the foundation does is put right back into serving patients at Bayhealth,” said foundation President Lindsay Rhodenbaugh.

Funds are used to purchase equipment, help fund campus expansion and provide nurse training.

He expects the nonprofit to give about $3 million this year to health care.

Over time, the Kent General Foundation transitioned into the Bayhealth Foundation, but the partnership remained. While big-name drivers such as Rusty Wallace, Terry Labonte and Richard Petty have taken part, fewer NASCAR stars golf in the outing now due to their busy schedules. Nonetheless, the field of 144 fills up quickly.

“There aren’t too many golf tournaments around that are older than this,” Mr. Rhodenbaugh said.

Richard King, a lawyer at Stevens and Lee in Wilmington, has been taking part in the event for four years. His firm has worked with Bayhealth for decades, he said, and the event is an enjoyable tradition that raises money for a worthy cause.

As for Mr. McGlynn, he judges the effort a success.

“Over the years it’s grown almost every single year in terms of what were able to get for Kent General Foundation,” he said.

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