Writer G.K. Chesterson said that "The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world."
That statement couldn't be anymore true for former TIMES NEWS Golfer of the Year (1999) and Baseball Player of the Year (2000) Geoff Kelowitz.
In January, Kelowitz was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which is a disease that affects the ability of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord to communicate with each other effectively. Although Kelowitz's battle with the disease has been difficult, the fact that his friends, family, and local businesses have stepped in to lend a hand has certainly eased his pain.
Those individuals have initiated the inaugural Geoff Kelowitz Invitational Golf Tournament that will take place tomorrow at 12 p.m. at Mahoning Valley Country Club. The event, which will become an annual tournament, will help Kelowitz along with thousands of others with MS.
The event directors Greg Flyte, Dave Figura, and CJ McGinley came up with the idea for the event shortly after Kelowitz was diagnosed with MS.
"Geoff had called me and told me the news that he had been diagnosed with MS and within a week we all started talking about putting together a tournament," said Figura. "The community I grew up in and the way I grew up taught me that when someone needs your help, as in the case with Geoff, that you help them in anyway that you can."
That feeling of community that Figura referred to showed, when shortly after they released the information for the tournament the field was filled to capacity.
"It goes to show how much people really care about each other in this area," said Flyte. "We had to actually cut the field off after 120 golfers and that was after just nine or 10 days. It's just great to see so many people chipping in to help out with such a good cause."
Before Kelowitz was diagnosed with MS he had a pretty impressive career in sports. After graduating from Jim Thorpe in 2000 he attended Towson University, where he played Division 1 golf and baseball. Kelowitz then went on to play professional golf on the Hooters Tour in Florida and Tar Heel tour that took place in the South from Virginia to Georgia. Kelowitz also holds the course record at Mahoning Valley Country Club (63) and Schuylkill County Country Club (63) and has won multiple club championships at Mahoning Valley.
Kelowitz's professional playing days might be over and his battle with MS will be something he will surely have to endure for the rest of his life, but the support he has received from so many people has made the whole process a lot more tolerable.
"It really feels great to have such a strong support system of family and friends," said Kelowitz. "This has no doubt been tough, but I can't thank the people enough who have been there for me. It also feels great to be able to help others with MS with this tournament. The main goal is to find a cure, and if this tournament can help with that then I feel like we did a good thing."
The Tournament is set in a scramble format with registration beginning at 10:30 a.m. and play starting at 12 p.m. There will also be an auction during the tournament with over a 100 prizes that were donated by local businesses. The entry fee of $85 includes a players green/cart fees, range balls, MS wristband, gift bag, a buy one get one free round certificate, and a post round barbeque dinner. Top prizes will be handed out for the top placing team, longest drive, closest to the pin, and hole-in-one.
"We wanted to hold the tournament at a place where there was some history between all of us," said Figura. "At one point in time we were all members at Mahoning Valley and Geoff has won a couple of club championships there, so it was a perfect spot for everyone to come together."
If anybody is interested in donating or volunteering to help with the Geoff Kelowitz Invitational they should send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.