ALBANY, Ga. -- Thirty-five sponsored teams took to the course in two waves at Doublegate Country Club on Friday morning and afternoon as the 25th annual Lopez Hospice Golf Classic teed off.
The event officially got under way Thursday evening with a pretournament bash, raffle and silent auction. The tournament and related events benefit Albany Community Hospice and the Willson Hospice House.
The golf tournament started up with the first group of 20 teams teeing off in the morning, followed by 15 teams in the afternoon.
"The participation has been great this year," Phoebe Foundation Development Coordinator Mandy Davis said Friday afternoon. "This is the tournament's 25th year, and many of the sponsors and participants wanted to be part of it. So far, it's been a really fun day for everybody."
Thursday night's pretourney bash was open to the public with a $100 donation admitting two people to the festivities.
"The people really enjoyed it," Davis said of the bash. "They got to meet Nancy and several of her LPGA friends ... even the people who don't play golf. Opening up the bash was a great addition to the tournament and also helped make people more aware of hospice."
Albany Community Hospice Director Patty Woodall said for the past 25 years the Lopez tournament has provided a vital part of the group's operating budget.
"This tournament and its events are indispensable to us," Woodall said. "We are able to do things for the families we couldn't do otherwise. Oftentimes a lingering illness will drain all of a family's resources, and we can do things like pay their power bills or provide medication for the caregivers."
The tournament also raises funds for Camp Good Grief and Journey, summer programs for area children who have suffered the recent loss of a significant figure in their lives.
In the past 25 years, the tournament and its related events have raised more than $1.5 million for charity. The one-year record raised is $168,000 several years ago.
"We think we're going to have a good year this year," Davis said. "The tough economy is not helping, but our sponsors are really coming through for us again."
Davis added that the 25th anniversary of the event makes this year special.
"This is a celebration," she said. "Part of our goal this year was to really thank Nancy because, let's face it, she is the tournament. Many of the participants come back year after year just to see her."
The tournament will conclude today with the Nancy Lopez and Friends Jr. Golf Clinic scheduled to begin at 10 this morning at The First Tee at 110 Mercer Ave.
The clinic will give young golfers an opportunity to golf alongside Lopez while contributing to Albany Community Hospice. The clinic is open to players between the ages of 7 and 18.