Cardiovascular diseases, the leading cause of death for American adults, can be prevented. You see the signs along the highways educating you on how to spot a stroke and you walk by AEDs in schools, arenas and public forums. These measures don’t guarantee survival. But they offer a one-two punch of awareness and assistance, maybe giving those affected a fighting chance.
In 2013, Terry Reiley - a husband, father and friend - suffered a heart attack on a tee box at Pennhills Club. He didn’t make it. The impact of his death, however, led to the creation of an event that aims to shed some light on cardiovascular diseases and attacks. On Sunday, Sept. 17, Pennhills plays host to ‘Drive Fore Life’ - an all-ladies scramble that emphasizes the importance of knowing the signs.
“The tournament is structured around 12 holes, which is kind of weird,” Christy Sullivan, tournament organizer and Zippo Lighters Senior Development Manager said. “The scoring is based on 9 holes, while the other three are fun. Some of our ladies are avid golfers, and some have never picked up a club before.”
The only winning the tournament concerns itself with is people winning their battle against cardiovascular diseases. Combining these fun holes into play is a testament to that.
“For instance, a stroke can leave someone blind - so one of the holes, we blindfold a team member and they have to rely on the team to get the ball in the hole,” Sullivan said. “Another is timed, as in how quickly you can get the ball in the hole. When someone is having a heart attack, it’s a race against time. So we try to incorporate these types of things to help raise awareness in a fun, interactive way.”
After the tournament’s inaugural year, one of the charitable endeavors was to donate AEDs (or automated external defibrillator, a machine that jolts a heart back into function) to various golf courses and establishments around the area. One of which went to Birch Run Golf Course in Allegany. After the AED went in, a golfer suffered a heart attack on the course. That AED saved his life.
“Cardiac diseases on the golf course are a lot more common than you would think,” Dr. Steve Herrmann told me. “The Drive Fore Life organization has been really successful since we started it. We’ve raised money for (the aforementioned) AEDs, pacemakers at Olean General Hospital and some cardio rehabilitation equipment for Bradford Hospital. There’s a lot of work that goes into this event, but it’s worth it.”
Herrmann, a cardiologist in Bradford, was a close friend of Reiley’s. And the patient who survived at Birch Run? A patient of his. He’s got a vested interest in the tournament because he sees the impact it has every day. This year, money raised will go towards new cardiology equipment at Bradford Hospital.
“It’s a fun day because the ladies get to play while the men do all the work,” Sullivan told me, laughing. “There are so many great prizes in the silent auction. The last year we did the tournament, the winning team received Michael Kors watches. There are Kate Spade and Coach bags, a martini bar, a daiquiri bar … there’s a lot of incentive to come out and play. We like to encourage ladies who aren’t playing to come and buy tickets regardless to give themselves a chance to win.”
There’s even a ‘wine’ hole. If a team member puts their first shot on the green (it’s a par 3) they automatically win a bottle of wine. I know that would be enough incentive for my girlfriend to play.
“The wine hole is great, because even if you don’t win a bottle, you still get to taste,” Sullivan said. “We measure blood pressure before and after the shot to see what kind of pressure it puts on you. Things like this make the day so much fun. But we do make sure that we don’t forget the underlying mission - that’s to encourage and educate these ladies on the risks of cardiovascular disease.”
If you remember a few months ago, Pennhills suffered the brunt of a brutal wind and thunderstorm that brought down over 100 trees. While it didn’t look great at the onset of spring, greenskeepers and grounds crew - under the direction of PGA Professional and Ellicottville native Jake Northrup - cleared the debris to return the course back into tip-top shape.
“While the numbers aren’t as bad as they used to be, cardiovascular disease is still the leading cause of death for adults,” Dr. Herrmann said. “A lot of women have no idea that they’re either at risk or even in the midst of a cardiac emergency, and statistically, it will effect 1 out of 2 women. If we can make a difference, we’re going to.”
“Dr. Herrmann is so humble. He’s the driving force behind this entire event,” Sullivan said. “He loves golf but loves this community even more. And we get so much support from everyone who’s involved. I get chills when I hear the stories of those affected … it’s an incredible day. We’re really looking forward to it.”
Drive Fore Life takes place at Pennhills Club in Bradford, Pennsylvania on Sunday, Sept. 17. Tickets are $50 which includes golf, cart and the awards ceremony dinner. Teams consist of 4 ladies, and the committee would love for you to join them. For tickets and more information, give the Club a call at 814-368-6159.