Love for golf carries on through memorial fund
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
The legacy for a Grayling golf coach and advocate for youth lives on through a program to introduce students to the game and to award scholarships to graduates.
A full field of 108 golfers participated in the fourth annual Jason Potter Memorial Fund Golf Tournament at the Grayling Country Club on Saturday, Sept. 16.
Potter, the Grayling High School boys golf coach, was killed in a vehicle crash on April 29, 2013. Louis Menard, a Grayling High school senior, also died from injuries sustained in the crash. Six other players, who were on their way to a golf match at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, were injured in the accident.
Jason’s mother, Jodi Potter, said she appreciates the outpouring of support for the memorial fund over the last four years
“It’s very heartwarming,” Jodi said. “It’s been a very emotional day because I feel very honored that this many people come out not only for him, but for the boys, and want to continue to help to keep his memory alive in order to help other kids and keep the scholarships going. It is a chance to all get together and heal together because we all miss him.”
Potter served as a youth specialist at the Shawono Center, a juvenile detention center located west of Grayling, for 10 years.
Over the last four years, $28,000 has been generated for the memorial fund. The tournament is purposely held on the third Saturday in September so it does not conflict with golf outings hosted by other community organizations.
Dozens of businesses and individuals donated funds and raffle items to help support the golf outing.
“We put our all it into every year,” Jodi said. “We want everybody out here to just have a blast. Come out, have fun, reminisce, be with your friends, and have a great time.”
Proceeds from the tournament fund a $1,000 scholarship in honor of Louis Menard to attend the University of Michigan, where he was enrolled to study business.
Two $500 scholarships are awarded in honor of Jason Potter. A third scholarship is planned through the donation of Family Fare cash register receipts through the supermarket’s Direct Your Dollars program.
The memorial fund also funds the Little Viking Golf program, which is available free for kindergarten through eighth grade students to allow them to learn the game of golf at the Grayling Country Club. Golf bags and clubs can be checked out at the country club so that kids can practice on their own outside of the summer lessons offered.
“It’s great giving back to the youth, especially with golf,” said Travis Huber, a childhood friend of Jason’s who serves on the board of directors for the memorial fund. “It’s nice that kids are being given the opportunity to play.”
Rob Lawe, another childhood friend of Jason’s on the board of directors, traveled from New Mexico to take part in the tournament.
“It makes me feel good that I can help carry on the memory of Jason and how much he appreciated and loved participating in club events and golfing,” Lawe said. “It’s a way for me remain close to the family and everybody who were friends with Jason.”
Chet Wheeler, the president of the board of directors, said the memorial fund allows the community to carry on the names and memories of Potter and Menard.
“We’re here for their memory and their honor, but we’re also here for our future and youth in our community,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler and his mother, Beth Wheeler, took over as coaches for the golf team after the accident so that team members could finish out the season. They continued as coaches for two more seasons.
Former Grayling High School Athletic Director Eric Tunney coached for one season. The team is now under the direction of coach Derek Johnston.
“Derek is an alumnus of our golf team, so he comes with a lot of experience and understands what being a Grayling golf coach means,” Wheeler said. “The program is in great hands with him there.”
Mike Fortino, the general manager for the Grayling Country Club, said the memorial fund passes on Potter’s love for golf and will pay dividends for youth down the road.
“The cause is to raise awareness for young kids to take up golf and that is what the Jason Potter memorial fund is doing here at the Grayling Country Club,” Fortino said. “That will benefit the club as kids get older and want to play.”
Greg Gothro, a long-time friend of the Potter family, was honored to take part in the tournament on Saturday.
“It means a lot to me. Jason and I were pretty good buddies,” Gothro said. “I’m just so proud of what they’ve done in his name.”