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by Samantha Hicks / Buffalo Sabres

The fifth annual Sabres Golf Tournament took place on Monday at Park Country Club in Williamsville. It turned out to be the most successful one yet, with more than $100,000 being raised for the Buffalo Sabres Foundation.

There were 170 tournament participants, with many of them arriving as early as 10 a.m. They were greeted by a large Tim Hortons coffee truck serving breakfast and coffee along with ice cappuccinos and smoothies. At check-in, all golfers were handed gift from the Sabres which included a golf jacket, duffle bag and an umbrella among other golfing necessities. The tournament began promptly at 11:30 a.m. with a shot gun start. Celebrity golfers ranged from Lindy Ruff, Ryan Miller and Corey Tropp, to Sabres Alumni including Jay McKee and Adam Mair.

The tournament marked the first time that all of the players were together after last season. Rich Jureller, the Sabres’ Director of Community Relations, describes the event as a great way to kick off the new year, not only in terms of hockey but also for community events as it’s the first fundraiser of the year for the Foundation.

“There are a number of objectives within the Sabres Foundation,” Jureller explained. “Education, inner city programs, skating programs, ice hockey programs that benefit kids with developmental disabilities, disadvantaged and the money raised today will help support those programs and the groups that carry out those programs throughout our community.”

Not only is the first time the players are seeing each other for the first time since last season, but it’s also the first time players meet the new faces of the team. This included Steve Ott, who was playing his first game of golf in Buffalo. Monday’s event gave Ott an opportunity to meet the members of the Sabres organization in a relaxed setting.

“This is great for myself, obviously coming in and having the opportunity to meet a lot of new guys; everyone from the staff all the way down to marketing and PR,” Ott said. “There’s an opportunity for myself to meet everyone and to enjoy the day with my teammates as well for a great cause. These are the easy days, the ones that are fun.”

The day turned out to be even more enjoyable than expected for Ott when it was announced that his foursome had won the tournament.

The event is not only a nice way for the players and staff to get ready for the year but also provides a unique golfing experience for the companies who participate in the event. Kevin Kelly of IEvolve, who enjoyed his first year of the event with Jordan Leopold as his celebrity partner, described the event as, “fantastic.”

“As a company we do a lot of good stuff with the Sabres and they do a lot of good stuff for us. If we can come out here and support this, we’re very happy to be a part of it,” Kelly said.

After 18 holes, each group came up to the club house for happy hour and the “buy-it-now auction, which included a “Player Post-Practice Meet & Greet” package. Upon returning from the green, each golfer received a framed autographed photo of their golf group and their group’s celebrity. Dinner followed at 7 p.m. with awards and the live auction. Popular items of the auction included the opportunity to travel with the team to an away game; and sit in the Sabres team photo.

As the business leaders of the community who joined the Sabres at the event on Monday sat down for dinner, Sabres owner Terry Pegula stepped up to the podium to say a few words.

Pegula thanked the audience for their support and reiterated that the Sabres are committed to the City of Buffalo.

“There’s no better feeling than seeing what I see out here today, and hearing what everybody is telling me of what the Sabres are doing,” Pegula said. “That makes us very proud to help the community.

“The Sabres are going to try to lead the charge in the community,” Pegula continued. “The area needs to have a positive attitude going forward into the future. There’s no doubt that we can help, but we can’t do it all. So we need the rest of the people in the room here -- your friends, your relatives, the whole of the community -- to pull together and instill an attitude that will lead us to our goal of being a premier place to live and accomplish what we want to do with our community.”

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