When Jim and Beth Judson died in an October 2010 plane crash on their way home to Roswell after watching their daughter play in a golf tournament with her University of Southern Mississippi team, it wasn't only a devastating loss for their family and friends, but the entire community at large.
As generous philanthropists, the couple had long been active in the local community, finding ways to give back for a life they felt blessed to live with their two children, Lauren and Dean. Unwilling to let her parents' death be chalked up to tragedy and forgotten, in the months after their death, Lauren began the quest of continuing her parents' mission to help others in a way that meant something to her - a charity golf tournament.
"We came up with this little idea, which has turned into a big idea," said Jackie Cannizzo, PGA professional at Country Club of Roswell, the Judson family's home course.
In one of the most uniquely designed golf events anywhere in the U.S., the tournament - dubbed the "Judson Collegiate Invitational & The Legends Tour Atlanta Pro-Am" - will combine the future of women's golf with some of the best to ever play the game. The money raised via player spots, sponsorships, program ads and tickets during the July 15-18 tournament at the will go to benefit Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
The four-day event will consist of several parts: Day 1 is a Pro-Am, featuring the top 30 LPGA Legends Tour players paired with amateurs and top women collegiate players. On Day 2 The Legends Tour Collegiate Challenge will pair one Legends Tour player with two college players in a stroke play event and includes a $120,000 purse for The Legends players. Day 3 and Day 4 will match top college players against each other in a stroke play tournament.
The unique format coupling legendary LPGA players with college counterparts will provide mentorship for young women hoping to make it onto the LPGA one day, said Cannizzo.
About her vision for the event, Lauren writes on the Judson Golf website that it should be considered "the 'Masters' of women’s collegiate golf." The tournament will be an annual event, say organizers. Recruiting players from the best of women's collegiate golf, eventually they hope qualifying for one of the 60 spots is highly sought after by players from colleges around the country. So far the 2012 tournament has 45 confirmed collegiate players from various colleges, including, Ohio State University, the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University.
The tournament has also confirmed 30 Legends players. According to organizers, the North Fulton location is perfectly positioned within the Southeast to tap into a fanbase who will recognize former LPGA players like Rosie Jones, Nancy Lopez, Betsy King, Patty Sheehan and dozens more.
But undertaking the task of producing the inaugural event hasn't come without its challenges. Scheduling complications, strict NCAA guidelines and just run-of-the-mill event particulars have all presented some hurdles for the newly formed Judson Collegiate Invitational (JCI) Foundation, Inc. But they weren't anything organizers didn't expect for a start-up tournament. In fact, JCI Foundation President Kirk Knous said the tournament had already surpassed its benchmark goal for the intial year, although he wouldn't say what that was. Jones did say the event was still looking for a title sponsor, a privilege which comes with a $50,000 pricetag.
Support for the event has come from various avenues, including Roswell City Councilwoman Becky Wynn, who has championed the event taking place within her neighborhood; and the Georgia State Senate, which passed a resolution presented by Sen. John Albers honoring the family.
"This event was not born out of tragedy, but to celebrate the Judsons," said Jones.
For more information on the tournament or the Judson family, visit the Judson Golf website. To purchase $10 tickets to the event, visit The Legends website. For sponsorship opportunities contact Bob Voll, 404-771-1927. To play in the Pro-Am event Sunday, July 15 contact Rosie Jones. (Note - only a few spots remain available to amateurs.)