The Power of a Tourney

Selfless, compassionate, difference maker. You know the person that embodies these traits, as every community has one (or more).  A man that worked tirelessly to help make the lives of the people around him better, Larry Sullivan died in 2002. But the Randolph community refuses to allow such an accomplished life go forgotten. On Wednesday, Sept. 9, the Larry Sullivan Memorial Golf Tournament will honor his memory. 

A sterling testament to the life of service Sullivan led: for many years, he was nicknamed ‘Lion Larry,’ in regards to his dedication to the Lions Club of Randolph. The Lions Club, an international organization that dedicates itself to assisting the blind and hard of sight, has chapters in over 200 countries. 

Howie Van Rensselaer, a Lions Club member and friend of Sullivan, said it was an easy decision to get a memorial going after Sullivan died.  “Larry was a lifetime Randolph guy,” he said. “He had a huge impact on the community and his church (Randolph’s Grace Episcopal). He worked for me (at Van Rensselaer & Son Funeral Home) for over 15 years. He was the heartbeat of the Lions Club and really made it what it is today. He was a great person.” 

The tournament, now in its 12th year, has raised over $100,000 to date for the Lions Club, scholarships and various community service endeavors. 

“We’ve received unbelievable support from the community since the tournament’s inception,” Van Rensselaer said. “Restaurants and bars have gotten involved, and Eric (Brown) at Cardinal Hills, where we host the tournament, has been over-the-top generous.”

(Writer’s note: I played at Cardinal Hills for the first time in about 10 years for the Gotta Kiss Cancer Goodbye tournament in July. An awesome course that’s fun to play - check it out!)

Van Rensselaer started the tournament with Sullivan’s son, Terry. He continues to work with a committee each year to ensure the tournament goes off without a hitch. It’s much more difficult to host and organize a golf tournament than one might expect, so it’s a testament to both the committee’s efforts and Sullivan’s memory that it hauls in over 100 golfers a year. 

“We knew we wanted to have the tournament in the fall,” Van Rensselaer said. “And we know it’s difficult for people to make golf work on a Wednesday, especially throughout the fall. So it really means a lot to us that so many people participate.” 

Raising that much money is no easy feat. But Van Rensselaer told me that it’s been easy with how charitable local businesses have been. 

“A couple of bars have given us packages for 20 people to come eat, drink and watch the Bills games,” he said.  “So those have been big. We’ve always had a title sponsor. Not to mention, the people who support the cause.” 

Each year, the money from the tournament goes into the Lions Club bank account and is distributed accordingly. Since the Lions Club’s primary focus is sight, they’ve gotten eyeglasses for kids and senior citizens. But it doesn’t stop there - they’ve given out hearing aids, gas cards to those who need to travel for long-term medical care, and assistance for those in the community who need help. The Lions Club also gives out three scholarships to the tune of $1,000 each year - two from the Club, and one called the Larry Sullivan Memorial Scholarship. 

“It’s a great event, and it’s a great way to honor Larry’s memory,” Van Rensselaer said. “If you’d like to participate or donate, please give us a call at the Club or Cardinal Hills. We’re really excited about this year.” 

The Lions Club of Randolph can be reached at 716-358-4210.  Cardinal Hills Golf Course is located at 78 Conewango Road, Randolph, NY 14772, phone 716-358-5409.  View them on the web at www.cardinalhillsny.com. 

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