WILLIAMSTOWN -- On the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Allied Golf Association's junior program, four recent high school graduates received financial aid Tuesday night for their upcoming college careers while also listening to a worthwhile history lesson and being given advice as they enter a new chapter of their lives.
Hoosac Valley's Chad Alibozek, Drury's Alex Boulger and Pittsfield's Jake Matthews and Adam Brickle all were given $500 in scholarship money from Dick Rivers -- with money raised by raffles at his fall senior tournament series -- and the family of the late Gene Andrew, who founded the junior program in 1973.
All four golfers had outstanding high school golf careers -- Alibozek was the All-Eagle MVP this past season -- and all played in the junior summer series known today as the Berkshire County Junior Series.
This history lesson was courtesy of Rivers, Gayle Andrew and Steve Magargal. Rivers had a big role with Gene Andrew in the early years and has been providing scholarship money from his series for 11 years. Gayle Andrew is the daughter of Gene, while Magargal played in the inaugural tournaments in 1973 as a young teen.
Gene Andrew, who passed away at age 92 last year, was passionate about golf and about the positive impact it could have on young people. But he didn't just talk about it; the longtime Berkshire Hills Country Club member, president and board member did something about it.
"Not only was he an avid golfer, he also had the vision to understand we would be in dire straits at our courses if we didn't get young people to play the game, so he established the first junior Allied program," Rivers told the recipients. "That is why I call him the father of junior golf in Berkshire Country. Probably 3 or 4,000 kids have gone through the program, and probably 1,000 of them are members at our clubs now."
When Gene died last year, Gayle Andrew and her mother, Peg, who couldn't attend the ceremony, decided to help fund the scholarships. They were awarded in his name Tuesday.
"We wanted to contribute because of how much my father believed in kids going to college," Gayle said. "Golf was about family for him. It was also about the etiquette of the game and what it can teach you."
Magargal, who owns Liston's Pub in his hometown of Worthington and co-hosts a weekly golf talk radio show, made sure the new graduates understood just how lucky they have been.
"This doesn't happen in other parts of the country," he said of juniors getting to play in tournaments for a mere $10 while competing for prizes and being fed. "I was recently played in the Murray Brothers Caddyshack Open in St. Augustine, Fla., and I looked around the area. If you don't have $100 down there, you aren't going to be playing golf.
"How lucky you are that Mr. Andrews and Dick have done so much for junior golf."
Magargal also told the recent high school grads about the doors the game opened for him and how it can benefit them going forward, while exhorting them not to have a short memory.
"Here is my personal roll call of people I've met because of golf," he said. "Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Carl Yastrzemski and [former Secretary of State] George Schulz. And I've had drinks with Arnold Palmer. All this for a kid from Worthington who never thought something like that could happen.
"What you need to remember is you won't always be playing soccer or basketball, but you will be playing golf all your life. So, if you see young guys on the course, ask them to play. ... Make a mark wherever you go, but don't forget where you came from."
All four teens voiced their appreciation for the financial help. It seems they also understood the history lesson.
"I'm really thankful, this money will be a big help to me," said Brickle, who is headed to the Rochester Institute of Technology.
"I hope to be able to give back to those who helped me," said Alibozek, who will attend Keiser University in Port St. Lucie, Fla. "You can't do better than getting to play in tournaments for $10."
"We need to get other juniors as involved as we have been," said Matthews, who is headed to Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Both Alibozek and Boulger seem to be headed in a direction that will let them give back to the game. Both are going to school's with PGM (Pro Golf Management) programs.
"[The junior series is] a great program," said Boulger, who hopes to major in engineering at Westfield State. "I didn't even know going into high school that you could go to all these courses and play for $10."