Fore-d! Tourney recalls former president's visit

U.S.-Great Britain Friendship golf event to be held Wednesday

Posted: Monday, June 17, 2002

For Tom and Koggie File and their Mendenhall Golf Course, June 19, 1990, is an epochal date.

It was the day Gerald Ford came to visit. Oh, and a former British prime minister stopped by, too.

"It was an exciting day - one that we'll remember forever," Koggie File said. "They were very fine gentlemen."

"They were so easy to talk to - just really enjoyable to have here with us for the day," Tom File recalled. "It was a good time for everybody."

So good, in fact, that every year since, on June 19, a golf tournament has been held to commemorate the visit. The 12th annual U.S.-Great Britain Friendship Handicap Golf Tournament will take place on Wednesday starting at 8 a.m., with proceeds from the $18 entry fee benefiting the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter.

The visit by Ford and Leonard James Callaghan, prime minister of Great Britain from 1976 to 1979, came about when the former President said he'd make one public appearance during a vacation stop in town. Ford's affinity for golf guided the choice of location.

"You can imagine the excitement to be told you'd be entertaining a former president and a former British prime minister," Koggie File said.

Secret Service agents came on Father's Day - two days before the visit - to look over the course. Koggie File said she asked them about how she should entertain the distinguished visitors. They told her the arrangements were hers to make.

"I baked a cake," she said. "We had punch and cake and a little reception."

Ford, hobbled by recent knee surgery, was under doctor's orders to avoid golfing. But he obliged the crowd of about 50 journalists and spectators with a few swings on the driving range.

While the Mendenhall Golf Course wasn't the sprawling, landscaped 18-hole layout Ford was likely accustomed to, the Files said he and Callaghan were gracious guests.

Since 1995, the commemorative tourney has been a fundraiser for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a nationwide organization that includes students from middle school through college, as well as alumni.

Nikki Sullivan, a member of Juneau's adult FCA chapter, said the money raised allows students to attend FCA leadership and sports camps.

Lee Sullivan, who will be a senior next fall at Juneau-Douglas High School, said the group holds regular meetings before school, as well as conducting several outreach events - including bonfires, the "Extreme Challenge" relay race and a Super Bowl party - to build a sense of community among students.

"It's a positive thing for our kids in Juneau," Nikki Sullivan said. "It encourages (students) in life and in their faith."

Trophies, ribbons and prizes will be awarded for low scores and shots landing closest to the pin. Prizes include a night's stay and brunch at the Travelodge, and a free day of golf at Mendenhall Golf Course.

The tournament will include Men's and Women's A and B Flights, as well as a Junior Flight. For more information, call the golf course at 789-1221.

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