Photo: Felix Carroll

'Slice' Fits Marians, CYC to a Tee

14th Annual Charity Tournament Helps Catholic Youth, MIC Seminarians

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By Dan Valenti (Sep 13, 2010)
No matter how you slice it, the Marian Fathers' 14th annual Slice of Heaven is a great leveler. It combines scratch golfers and green duffers — and every skill level in between — who play 18 holes for two great causes.

The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, based on Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Mass., and the Catholic Youth Association of Pittsfield co-sponsored the Slice of Heaven charity golf tournament on Sept. 10 at the beautiful Stockbridge Country Club. The funds raised will be used to benefit the programs at the CYC and the Marians' Seminarian Campaign.

Registration for the Slice of Heaven began at 10:30 a.m. that morning. Prior to play, a buffet lunch was served beginning at 11 a.m. At 12:15 p.m., teams of golfers began in a shotgun start, playing best-ball format. That is where all four golfers on a team shoot off the tee, and each member plays a ball from where the best one landed. Golfers continue that way until they hole out.

Fun at 11
The day is full of camaraderie, sportsmanship, and fun. The cool, overcast morning and afternoon did nothing to chill the enthusiasm or the competitive juices of the teams. If anything, it revived golfers who this year played in an unusually hot and dry Berkshire summer.

Countless stories emerge from a day like this, such as the one on hole 11. At that hole, golfers could contribute extra money to take a chance at closest-to-the-pin on the 133-yard par-3 hole that borders the meandering Housatonic River.

Standing sentry at the 11th, Br. Allen Alexander, MIC, waited off to side of the green, measuring tape handy.

"How many times did you have to duck?" I asked, making note of the length of the hole.

"More than a few. I've had to duck under these trees a lot," said Br. Allen, who is spending the year assisting the Very Rev. Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, Marian provincial superior, with a continuing series of missions to parishes primarily in the Northeast. Father Dan, Br. Allen, and often another Marian visit parishes to introduce the message of The Divine Mercy.

"I've seen golf balls flying all over the place — into the river, onto the road, over everything. Anywhere anyone could hit a golf ball from there, they've hit it."

Surefire Recipe for a Hole-in-One
Brother Allen said the closest to the hole to that point of play had been five feet, three inches from the pin. This writer suggested that a sure way for a golfer to get closer would be for Br. Alan to stand over the hole, holding the pin, and give Fr. Dan a golf club. The remark produced chuckles, with ace photographer Felix Carroll leading the chorus.

"Yeah, if I did that, that would be a guaranteed hole-in-one. Fr. Dan wouldn't miss. He'd get me right here," Alan said with a laugh, pointing to his noggin.

Immediately after that, a foursome carted up to the tee. Brother Allen, Felix, and I stood off to the side to let them swing. Each drove. One ball went in the river. One landed in a sand trap. Two hit the green in regulation. The closest ball rested on the front fringe of the green, about 35 away. The author of that nice shot, going first, followed with another to equal it, calmly sinking the long putt for a pure birdie (the same man hit both shots). The other three men didn't have to putt.

As the ball rolled into the cup, the seven of us broke out in a cheer that would have done a football team justice.

"Like hitting a hole in one for me," one of the men said, referring to having to hit only one shot off the tee to hole out, courtesy of the heroics of his mate. Asked for a remark about the event, he said, "Oh, it's great. We decided to do this. I mean, this is a great course, but we want to support these [two] causes."

Ah, You Can Call it a 'Marian' Foursome
Elsewhere on the course, a 75 percent Marian foursome battled handsomely. The team included Fr. Jim McCormack, MIC; Fr. Mark Baron, MIC; and Br. Rich Dolan, MIC. The fourth member, Jim's dad, Art, qualified as an "honorary Marian" for the day. Having fathered a boy who as a man would become a Marian priest, Art could certainly lay claim to Marian Helper with Double Oak Leaf Cluster.

It's funny how hitting a little white ball with a metal stick will subdue needling and take the typical horsing around and reduce it to athletic focus that, to the unenlightened, would resemble somberness. This especially holds true for men, who in competition tend to act as if they're lining up the putt that will win or lose the Master's.

Case in point: this particular foursome. They arrived at the green, jokes and laughs flying. Then the atmosphere changed when it got down to putting.

The team's best ball had landed just off the first cut on the green. In order, Fr. Jim, Fr. Mark, Br. Rich, and Art took practice strokes, addressed the ball, and with poker-faced, meditative preoccupation, blocked out everything else. No one sank the shot, and they settled for a two-putt. Walking back to the carts, the laughter ensued. Multiply that sense of light-heartedness and serious competition, and you get a taste of the Slice of Heaven.

Nearly $250,000 Raised Over the Years
The evening concluded with cocktails and dinner, followed by a silent auction and awards.

Over the years, the Slice of Heaven has raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars for charities in Berkshire County and Marian seminarians.

The Catholic Youth Center on Melville Street in Pittsfield, Mass., advances the moral, intellectual, social, and recreational interests of Pittsfield youth. It provides a safe environment and an array of activities for children. The Marian Fathers are a worldwide congregation or more than 500 priests and brothers located in 19 countries. There are more than 100 young men in formation for the priesthood within the congregation.

Please help us educate the Marian priests of tomorrow.

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