The 32nd annual Jack Nicklaus scholarship golf benefit began on time Aug. 8 with 136 golfers despite reported rain in the morning and record heat in the afternoon.
The benefit, which began 32 years ago to raise funds for Lorain County Community College, has since the coronavirus, bringing together golfers from around Lorain County every year to celebrate the sport and education.
In 1989, Judge Joseph Cirigliano approached friend and golf partner Jack Nicklaus to come to the Elyria Country Club, 41625 Oberlin Elyria Road in Elyria, to support the local community college.
Cirigliano said he met Nicklaus while down in Florida where his children used to go to school.
“I went to play in a golf tournament down there and I played with Jack,” he said. “The tournament was to support my kids school down in Florida, and he was determined to run an athletic program for the schools.”
He said he was captivated by Nicklaus’ determination and commitment to education and knew that Lorain County Community College back in Ohio could use his talents.
Nicklaus immediately agreed and the scholarship and benefit outing was born.
Since then, Cirigliano and Nicklaus have continued to keep in contact playing together over 40 times, with Nicklaus even attending the outing for its 25th year in 2015.
Cirigliano, who will turn 98 at the end of August, says talking to Nicklaus still “feels like talking to an old friend.”
Lorain County Community College is the only college to have Nicklaus’s endorsement, and since the beginning Nicklaus has viewed the college in high regard.
“This school is something for the community. it continuously gives triple A education to its students and its foundations like these that are why so many great students get to achieve their dreams,” Cirigliano said.
LCCC Foundation trustee member and friend of the college Don Knechtges is also incredibly proud of the benefit and its turnout.
“This is the second largest field in 32 years only exceeding the time Jack Nicklaus came for the 25th anniversary,” Knechtges said.
“The turnout is a real testament to the future and success of Lorain County and the education level and commitment in this area.”
Besides Nicklaus, many pro golfers throughout the years have enjoyed the benefit.
This year, three pro golfers, Alexandra O’Laughlin, Caroline Collins and Claire Hogle joined the golfers on the field giving tips and friendly competition.
All three women grew up around golf, competing in tournaments and winning scholarships because of the sport.
“The cool thing about golf is anyone can play and you meet so many people and support so many good things especially education,” O’Laughlin said.
Collins and Hogle agree, saying that without golfing they wouldn’t be able to complete their degrees, with Collins earning her masters thanks to the scholarships the sports gave her.
The women agree that whether you’re good or not at the sport, at the end of the day its something that brings people together, something Collins says “is something you can’t put a price on.”