The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 18, 2014

A Don McCormack column: Happy 13th!

KP Invitational set for Aug. 6 at Maple Ridge

By DON McCORMACK - donmac@suite224.net
Sports Editor

— It was a long, sometimes-difficult journey, but come August, we here at the Star Beacon will celebrate one of our own becoming a teenager.

For on the first day of the 2014-15 high school sports season, our own KP Invitational will turn 13.

On Wednesday, Aug. 6, we will stage our annual golf tournament at gorgeous Maple Ridge Golf Course, which has become the traditional kickoff of sorts for every high school sports year.

Every high school varsity boys and girls squad from schools in our coverage area have been invited to participate, with the Star Beacon completely footing the bill.

As the only remaining member of our sports staff who was around when the event kicked off, I can’t help but be filled with much appreciation and pride — along with a twinge of sadness — with the state of the event.

The idea for the invitational was the brainstorm of our former publisher, Ed Looman. I can still remember him calling me and saying, “Don, I’ve got an idea... and I think it’s a pretty good one. Let me run it by you and see what you think.”

It took Ed about 30 seconds before I daringly interrupted my boss — who stands about 6-foot-5, mind you, and is a bit of an imposing figure, job title not withstanding, and said, “Ed, it’s not a pretty good idea... it’s a great one!”

From there, we set out to plan the details, first and foremost, being where to hold the event.

Really, we had no direction as to which to turn.

Fortunately for us — and for every one of the players and coaches who will be on hand come the first Wednesday in August in Saybrook Township — the good folks at Maple Ridge Golf Course threw their hat into the ring with us and our star was born, so to speak.

The Jyurovat family — led by the family’s late patriarch, Ron, his wife, Nancy, and their daughters, Jacki and Janet (Mathews) — have never wavered in their commitment to the Invitational. The family, which has owned the popular course since 1980, gives out yearly scholarships.

And with general manager George Bellios, himself a former standout golfer during his high school days playing for the legendary Bob Ball for the Ashtabula Panthers and now the longtime athletic director for Riverside High School, handling the myriad of details on the course’s end, the event has not only taken off and grown by leaps and bounds, it has flourished.

It began as a boys-only event, though with the emergence of girls golf, it was only a matter of time before it became a co-ed invitational, which it did.

In 2011, the girls took the final step toward equality by playing 18 holes at the Invitational, matching their male counterparts. We also added a closest-to-the-pin competition for competitors of both genders.

“The Star Beacon Invitational,” as it was known up until 2012, became both a passion and a labor of love for the Star Beacon’s Karl Pearson.

Along with Jefferson boys coach Scott Barber, Karl put in countless hours behind the scenes making sure the trophies and other awards were ordered from good guy Rob Rich of PlayAll Awards and Engraving and pizza from our pal Rob McNicholas at Domino’s was ordered to feed the competitors and coaches at the turn.

While those duties have now fallen to yours truly, in truth, like a large portion of the nuts and bolts to pretty much everything that goes on behind the curtain for us, I’m pretty much following the mold cast by Karl.

Karl unexpectedly passed away on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011 at age 58, literally days after the 10th Invitational was held.

We, especially me, was so blessed to have Rob DiPofi, the accomplished coach of the Geneva girls program, call later that fall. It was almost fitting that his words echoed those of Ed Looman from a decade previous.

“Don, I’ve got an idea... and I think it’s a pretty good one,” he said, though I’m paraphrasing. “Let me run it by you and see what you think.”

That conversation paved the way to the event being renamed, “The Karl Pearson Invitational” two years ago, with the blessing of my bosses — publisher Jim Frustere and editor Neil Frieder.

Karl never married nor had any children.

However, come Aug. 6, one of his “babies” will turn 13.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at donmac@suite224.net.