The Post-Journal

GBO Ready for 25th Anniversary

The George Bataitis Invitational golf tournament began in 1973 when some former Jamestown Community College golfers suggested to their Jayhawks coach, Bataitis, that they get together for a round of golf at Maplehurst Country Club. They decided to do it again the next year with more golfers. The GBI was a full-fledged event with 90 entrants.

However, Bataitis stressed, “The objective was to have fun.”

There was plenty of fun, but also some very good golf. Dick Cole and Joe Johnson won the GBI with scores of 65, 66, 68, and 69, but the humor remained as the winner was awarded the GBI Jacket. It was a putrid yellow color with a torn pocket that the champion usually stored in the trunk of his car until it was awarded to the next winner.

By the early 1980s, the GBI faded away but it returned as the GBO, the George Bataitis Open in 1989.

“We were looking for a fundraiser,” said Greg Fish, JCC executive director of the Faculty Student Association. “We were in a situation where we needed to raise funds for scholarships. So we decided the golf tournament was one of the options for us to raise funds for the athletic department.”

So Bataitis was approached about bringing the GBI back as the GBO.

“We changed it from the GBI to the GBO (George Bataitis Open) with his (Bataitis) blessings that we would do this as a fundraiser for the athletic department.” Fish said.

The event has grown and on May 10 it will be held for the 25th time. For the first three years, the new GBO was held at Maplehurst and then it moved to Chautauqua Golf when its pro, Stan Marshaus, became the JCC golf coach.

However, after the first few years of the GBO, it began to falter.

“When I got here in 1995 I think it had lost momentum again,” said former JCC athletic director Bill Burk, who was put in charge to the event because of his experience running similar tournaments in the San Diego area. “The first meeting I was at, we were thinking about if we were going to do it or not. Then we kind of fired it back up.”

And from the field of 80 golfer in 1989, the GBO grew to near 100 and once when as high as 140. There was another slip in participation and that was solved by switching to a scramble format.

“We were losing the amount of players who were playing in the tournament,” Fish said the reason for the change. He added, “We also moved it to a different time of the year. We moved it to the coming out of the gates in May.”

Having the tournament on the second Saturday in May leads to some interesting weather.

“It’s an ongoing ribbing, ‘What kind of weather are we going to get?’” athletic director Keith Martin said. “But they’re expecting it and that is the GBO.”

It could be sunny or rainy and there is always a chance of a few snow flurries.

“It’s their British Open,” Burk said.

While the weather can vary, the involvement of Bataitis has been constant. Martin noted that’s a reason for the tournament’s success.

“It’s because of the attachment to George,” Martin said is why a lot sponsors come on board. “There are a lot of players who are still attached to George.”

He noted, “That’s the first thing they ask when they walk in the door. ‘Is George going to be able to be here?’”

The sponsors are what make the GBO a success and without their help, it probably wouldn’t exist. The major plus is that all the food for the tournament is donated.

“If we had to buy that food, the price of the tournament would be much higher,” Fish said.

Burk noted about the money raised, “This is a $5,000 (raised) tournament without that (donations).”

Instead, GBO raises between $10,000 and $12,000. “It goes to the George Bataitis Fund which primarily funds scholarships,” Burke said.

Because men’s and women’s basketball are the only NJCAA Division II sports at JCC, they are the primary beneficiaries. The other JCC sports are in NJCAA Division III, which does not allow scholarships.

Martin is the former women’s basketball coach and when asked how important the GBO was when he was coaching and recruiting, he said, “It’s huge because this is where our scholarship dollars come from.”

For the past few years, scholarship recipients from the men’s and women’s basketball teams have appeared at the meal after the tournament to tell their story and how the scholarship was beneficial to them.

It’s so important that the golfers see where their money is going and the successes that our student-athletes are having both on the floor and in the classroom,” Martin said.

It was also noted that some of the funds have been used to help other JCC sports teams with the purchase of equipment.

That’s only appropriate because Bataitis was JCC’s first athletic director in 1956 and coached just about every Jayhawk sport in his more than 30 years before he retired in 1987. But now nearly 30 years later, Bataitis is still an important part of the JCC sports program.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.