Each fall for 15 years, local law enforcement officers have spent their precious off-duty hours to play host to the Christmas for Kids Benefit Golf Tournament.
Thanks to those efforts, the winter holidays have turned much brighter for needy Rim country youngsters who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to share in the delights of the Christmas season.
Payson Police officer Charlene Hunt who heads this year's event along with Department of Public Safety Officer Jimmy Oestmann estimates that since the inception of the tournament, $74,000 has been earned at the benefit.
Every penny of that money, Hunt said, has gone to purchase toys, clothing and food for youngsters during the holidays.
Not only do the officers help raise the money, they also shop for and then distribute the holiday gifts about a week before Christmas. Presents go to families living as far south as the Roosevelt Dam, north to Strawberry and east to Young.
"It's a big job and we solicit a lot of help," Hunt said.
With the holiday season just on the horizon, local police officers are hoping that this year's benefit tournament generates enough money to keep the gift-giving tradition alive.
"It's that time of year where we all join forces, dig deep into our pocketbooks and have a good time golfing to benefit the less fortunate children of Northern Gila County," Hunt said.
The 2000 edition of the tournament will tee off, with a shotgun start, at 9 a.m. Oct. 14 at the Payson Golf Course.
The format calls for 18 holes of four-person best ball play. The winners of the links shootout own bragging rights for the year, and the traveling trophy. The trophy has resided for the past year at the Payson Golf Course.
In addition to the traveling trophy, participants will vie for a host of other prizes that are still being accumulated, Hunt said.
Another sure hit with the participants will be the Rim country famous deep-pit barbecue and beans dinner to be prepared by Albert Hunt and Roy Creach.
This year, the tournament will feature a new wrinkle, the cop auction which is held at 6:30 p.m. the night before at the PGC clubhouse will be silent rather than "live" as in past years.
The auction change was necessary because organizers cannot guarantee the police officers will be available the evening of the auction.
"Many of them will be working that night," Hunt said.
Auctioneer Rod Mamero a Payson Police Department sergeant will oversee the auction by soliciting bids for various officers to play in the foursome of the sponsoring business.
The minimum cost for each sponsor, Hunt said, will be $230 $150 for the officer and $80 green fees.
Sponsoring businessmen who wish to combine their efforts at the auction may do so, Hunt said.
"It will help defray costs, especially if you have a particular cop in mind and want to bid over the minimum."
Some of the law enforcement personnel who will be available at the auction include Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner, Department of Public Safety Director Col. Dennis Garrett, Gila County Attorney Jerry DeRose and Payson Police officer Allen Dyer.
In addition to the auction, Friday evening will feature a complimentary dinner buffet, a no-host cocktail hour and a special tribute to the sponsors who have been involved in the tournament the entire 15 years of its existence. Those include Payson Concrete, Payson Golf Course, Knotty Pine Cafe and Jim Young at ERA Realty.
Tournament organizers will also recognize 10-year sponsors. Hunt and Oestmann will be knocking on the doors of many local business seeking donations in the way of auction/door prizes during the next two weeks.
According to Hunt, new businesses or those that have not previously participated are urged to join the fun by bidding on an officer and then playing in the tournament the following day.
Call Hunt at 474-5177 or Oestmann at 474-2606 for more information.