PARKERSBURG - It was July 1983.
Gary Sigrist, a resident of the Canton-Massillon area of Ohio and three of his local golfing buddies -Tim Englert, Wes Sima and Bob Brown -saw an ad in their local newspaper, The Canton Repository, for 2 to 3 rounds of golf at the Golf Club of West Virginia and two nights at the Ramada Inn, located on Pike Street in Marietta.
It sounded like a good deal and wasn't that long of a road trip, so the foursome decided to give it a try. Little did they know at the time it would become a life-long tradition.
They had such a good time, they came back in 1965, with two more of their friends. In 1987, 10 made the trip from the northern part of Ohio.
After that, the tradition became an annual one and the traveling party continued to grow. When it reached 30 members, Sigrist -now a resident of Georgia -had to cut it off.
The traditional group includes two from Georgia, three from Iowa, one from Michigan, four from Pennsylvania and a whole bunch of Buckeyes.
"It's like a big family reunion,'' said Sigrist. "We look forward to it. We go back the middle of every July.''
When the group arrives here on July 18, it will mark their 30th trip to the Mid-Ohio Valley. Its members still stay at the same hotel, although it has changed ownership, and they wouldn't think about playing golf anywhere but the Golf Club of W.Va.
Group members will play golf on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in what they now dub the PIT -Parkersburg Invitational Tournament. They have had a large plaque made that includes the name of every champion. The plaque hangs at the Golf Club of West Virginia and each year the plate bearing the name of the previous year's winner is added to it in a special ceremony.
Sigrist is 56 years old and says a lot of those who participate are near his age. The group also includes seven second-generation members, including Sigrist's 33-year-old son, Josef, who who was 2-years-old when the original foursome made its way to Parkersburg. Josef has been joining his father on the trip since he was 21.
Each year, Gary Sigrist sends out an e-mail with the dates of the events and waits on the replies to start coming. It doesn't take long as this is the first event many of the participants mark on their calendars.
Gary Sigrist, Englert and Brown will be attending their 30th event, the only ones with perfect attendance. Considering that many sons have gotten involved, Sigrist believes the event could go on forever.
One thing is for sure - it's going to hit its 30th anniversary in a couple weeks.
What started out as a foursome among friends has grown into an annual event that brings 30 golfers from throughout the eastern United States to Parkersburg.