VIENNA, W.Va. - Known for promoting junior golf, the late Larry Martin carries a special place in the hearts of several participants in today's 43rd annual Rotary Sour Mash Memorial.
So as a gesture to continue Martin's tradition, the featured foursome of Jeff Schramm, Jay Ruffing, Matt Macatol and Phi Chen have spent the past year raising money for youth golf.
"We started this idea shortly after we won the Sour Mash last year," Macatol said.
Members of the featured foursome for the 43rd annual Rotary Sour Mash Memorial today are, from left, Matt Macatol, Phi Chen, Jeff Schramm and Jay Ruffing.
Total contributions have reached in excess of $5,000.
"Right after winning, it was not our gameplan of just being happy with playing with an LPGA Tour professional," Chen said. "My partners and I decided to make a little more effort to donate to the younger kids and get them excited about the game."
Ruffing, Macatol and Chen are graduates from Marietta High School. Ruffing will be celebrating his 38th birthday on Monday and is the only one of the four golfers who lives in Vienna. The other three call Marietta home.
"I worked at Parkersburg Country Club for about two to three years under Larry Martin - he was my first boss and a lifelong mentor," said Ruffing, who works for Ferguson Enterprises in Marietta. "Larry was a tremendous person and a great influence on my life.
"He taught me how the world works and how to treat people."
Schramm spent his high school career helping Williamstown win three Little Kanawha Conference golf championships. Then, after spending a year at Marshall he joined the men's golf program at Ohio Valley University. The 37-year-old, who works at Public Debt, has the distinction of being an academic all-American and hitting the first tee shot in OVU history.
Schramm, who was a recipient of the Bryce-Lietzke-Martin Scholarship Fund through the Sour Mash event, caddied two years when Bruce Lietzke made his annual visits to Parkersburg Country Club.
"The Bryce-Lietzke-Martin Scholarship Fund holds a special place in my heart," Schramm said. "I worked one summer for Larry Martin during the Top Flite Junior Tour - he was a big influence for me as a professional. He will be right there in my thoughts when I am teeing off on Monday."
Macatol, who attended Marietta College, works as a physician at Marietta Memorial Hospital. He admits the nerves will be present as he plays in front of a gallery. One thing is for certain, with LPGA Tour professional and honored guest Brittany Lincicome averaging nearly 280 yards per drive, Macatol must decide between driver and iron on the tee box.
"I can't hit driver off the tee - I use irons," the 40-year-old Macatol said. "On Monday, I have to use driver. The last time I played, I hit it OK with the driver. I'm here in Myrtle Beach so I plan on practicing at least one round and maybe getting some pointers from a pro."
Macatol is responsible for teaching Chen how to golf.
"Within a couple of times, Phi was able to beat me," Macatol said.
Several golfers will have their wives alongside as their caddy. Macatol's wife, Cathy, was ready and willing to join her husband for the 18 holes of exhibition where the featured foursome opposes the team of Lincicome and Parkersburg Country Club PGA Professional Scott Davidson.
Chen's significant other, Jamie, also is caddying for her husband.
"I know Brittany is one of the longest hitters on the LPGA Tour and I'm excited to try and hit it as hard as I can, and see if I come close to her drives," said Chen, who at 42 years old owns Austyn's Restaurant in Marietta. "Jeff is definitely the best golfer out of the four of us. Once in a while I can hit it far, but I am along for the fun. If I can hit one past Brittany, I'll feel real good."
The four golfers earned the opportunity to play alongside Lincicome after winning last year's event. The previous year, these same four golfers finished runner-up.
"About midway through last year's round, we arrived at the No. 1 tee - which was in the middle of our round," Schramm said. "Matt was getting two shots on the hole. He made par and ended up with a net eagle and Phi birdied for a net eagle. We were 4-under on that hole, and at that point we knew we had a chance to win this thing.
"We're all good buddies and have known each other for a long time. We're excited to do this as a group and something we will remember for a long time."