Photo by Curt Yeomans
Riverdale High School Sophomore, Joe Philaphet, examines a break on the green at the Lake Spivey Golf Club before taking a putt Friday at a school system fund-raiser. He was the All-County Male Champion at the school district’s golf tournament earlier this year.
It wasn’t the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, but you wouldn’t know it, considering the enthusiasm and competitive spirit of the participants at the Lake Spivey course on Friday.
And it was all for a good cause: Clayton County Public Schools’ 3rd Annual PSA Golf Tournament fund-raiser, which supports the Superintendent's Scholarship Fund.
Scores of county residents, school officials, staff members, elected officials, and even a few students braved the cloudy, misty weather –– and a bit of rain –– to support the school system’s efforts to raise money to help send some of the district’s promising students to college.
“It’s a wonderful tournament,” said Markee Tate, a community participant and organizer of the event. “This is a wonderful way for the community to come together and celebrate the good things that are going on in Clayton County Public Schools.”
Though the weather might have been a bit downcast, the mood among the competitors was not. The golfers were geared up and looking as if they were bringing their “A-game.” Tate said some former students and a few other participants came from as far away as Michigan. “It can get pretty competitive,” he said. “Anytime you have a golf tournament, and golfers come out with their game faces, they’re ready to play some serious golf.”
Clayton County School Superintendent Edmond Heatley was serious about his game, but more so about the reason for the event. “I’m a Hacker, I can play [golf],” he said. “I come out here because I like the game, and obviously this is a good cause.”
Riverdale High School sophomore, Joe Philaphet, one of the few students who was able to attend the event Friday, said it was his second time competing in the tournament. “Golf is my passion,” he said. “It’s a good tournament. I, myself, would like to have a scholarship.”
The golf tournament was Heatley’s idea, when he started the scholarship fund more than two years ago. The school district’s annual step show –– another Heatley initiative –– also provides money for the scholarship fund.
“Anytime we’re giving our young students an opportunity to further their education, and their lifelong dream, you can’t get any better than that,” said Heatley.
Yulonda Beauford, president and CEO of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, agreed. “The chamber is extremely supportive of this event,” she said. “This is a great initiative, and we want to see it continue to grow.”
Beauford added that, with the new graduation rates recently released for the school district, she’s hoping this event will motivate the community to get more involved in student achievement. The new rates are based on revised calculations that count only the students who graduate after four years of high school. Previous rates included all graduates, even if they took five years or more. The new calculations, released by the State Board of Education, show Clayton County’s high school graduation rate as being only 51.48 percent. Under the old formula, it was 80.2 percent. The report also showed that the state’s overall graduation rate is 67.4 percent, down from nearly 81 percent.
“We, as a community, have got to support our school system even more in helping to increase our graduation rate,” Beauford said. “We have got to graduate more than 50 percent of our students. It’s critical. We need to show that we have a valid, certified, stellar workforce, and this event is the right step to show our support.”
Last year, Heatley said, the tournament generated enough money for the district to award 17 scholarships, ranging from $1,000, to $1,500.
This year, according to Tate, 23 teams/sponsors participated, but he said the number of scholarships that will be awarded hasn’t been determined yet. “The money raised from the event will not be counted until later next week,” said Tate.
“The more money we raise, the more money we will give,” added Heatley.
During the event, several items were raffled or auctioned, including: A signed Atlanta Falcons jersey from wide receiver, Roddy White; a cooler filled with food donated by Barbara Teske, mother of Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske; several pieces of golf equipment; T-shirts, and tickets to a Georgia Tech baseball game.