An unusual – and very brief – shower swept through southern Santa Maria early Friday evening.
It wasn’t a much needed rain shower.
It was a cascade of about 320 golf balls that poured down on the 18th fairway of the Santa Maria Country Club golf course.
And it wasn’t the first time this kind of shower covered that part of the course.
This was the 13th straight year of the highly anticipated helicopter golf ball drop, part of the Santa Maria Valley YMCA’s 37th annual FUNraiser golf tournament, the tournament that raises money for the Y’s youth programs.
As part of their entry fee, each golfer is given one numbered golf ball. Additional balls are available to buy for $25.
The balls are all placed in a giant tub and, after everyone’s finished play, pilot Mark English brings one of his English Aviation helicopters to the course.
Tournament co-chair Jeff Saleen climbs aboard with the bucket of balls.
They take off, hover over a specially cut hole in the middle of the 18th fairway, then Saleen leans out and dumps the bucket, trying to hit the hole dead center.
This year, three balls fell into the hole. The three winners split half the $8,000 pot, approximately $1,333 each.
“It was a gorgeous day on the course today – perfect golf weather,” said former KCOY-TV chief meteorologist Jim Byrne. “There wasn’t a real rain cloud in sight. The only thing it rained was golf balls – just as I predicted.”
“It was beautiful weather,” said Mitchell Sullivan of the Santa Maria Seed team. “It’s always a great tournament and the money raised helps the kids. This is my fourth time playing. They keep inviting me back – I don’t know why.”
“It’s absolutely the best. An awesome, well run tournament,” said Steve Harding of the Rabobank team as his team waited to tee off on the sixth hole – the tequila hole where players got to vote for their favorite tequila. “In addition to the golf, they have a lot of on-course activities. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Krista Delia was supervising the fun at the tequila hole.
When not directing traffic at the tequila hole, Delia is the Senior Program Director at the Y.
She is currently concentrating on the Y’s Rise Up program, one of the programs that benefits from the FUNraiser.
“It’s a four week summer program,” said Delia. “We take 25 students who are struggling in school. They typically come from low income families and we work with the students to help them do better at school. This is the first year of the program and we’ve already seen amazing results.”
They YMCA partnered with Hancock College to create the TEAM curriculum.
“That stands for Technology, Engineering, Math and Science,” said Delia. “Plus we work on literacy to get the students reading up to grade level, we teach nutrition so the kids learn how to live, eat and be healthy and we even have swimming lessons so all our students learn to become safe swimmers.”
The program is completing its first year and has enough funding to guarantee it will continue for at least three more years.
“The best thing about this tournament is all the really great people coming out for a really great cause,” said Delia.
Out of the course, champions were crowned in both low gross (no handicap) and low net divisions (handicaps figured in).
The low gross champion team, which shot a 13-under par 59, was the foursome of Mike Larrabee, Jack Gresser and the father and son duo of Ted and Ryne Ortega.
“He’s got big shoulders so we’re letting him carry us,” said Ted Ortega, a former co-chairman of the tournament, of his son Ryne. “It’s always a fun tournament and I’ll always be out here supporting the Y.
“But you have to mention the Y’s CEO, Shannon Seifert. Shannon does such a great job at the Y, better than any other CEO in the history of the Santa Maria Valley YMCA and it’s not just this tournament, it’s every day she’s making a huge difference for our community.”
The low net winners, with an adjusted score of 49.1, were Rob Buchanan, Jason Buchanan, Travis Biegel and Timothy Rooney.
Second place net, with at 50.4, went to Brooks Wise, Daniel Hendon, Kim Kirchhoff and Greg Beebe.
Third place net, with a 52.2, went to Ryan Swack, Jean Luc Garon, Eric Bartell and Brett Krausse.
The Most Accurate Drive winners were Maurine Minnis and Matt Lane.
The Longest Drives were by Kathleen Juvet and Bryan Woodruff.
Erich Watson won the closest-to-the-pin contest.
As for the three gold ball drop winners – they were Gwen Gringras, Lorena Chavez and Krausse.
“The golf ball drop was my highlight. Everybody had a really nice time and no one had heat exhaustion,” said Saleen. “It’s been a really nice day and at the end of the day, the thing I’m most proud of is how the community keeps coming through for the YMCA year after year. There are a lot of great fundraising gold tournament for other good causes around here, I’m thankful that so many great people come out to support the Y.