Microphone in hand, Gary Glenny addressed the hundred-plus golfers sitting in carts at Valley Green Golf Course in Etters, York County.
“We're gonna have some fun today,” he said through crackly outdoor speakers. “And thanks so much for being out here.”
It was almost a perfect day for a tournament. The weather was great. The course was lush and green. The field was full.
Though Gary was playing, he would have a tough time having fun. He kept thinking about the one player who wasn't at the field.
“I wish he could be here, that's all,” Glenny said before teeing off. “I wish he could've gotten the help that he needed.”
“He” is Gary's son Corey, who would've turned 34 Friday.
Corey was a lefty and he loved golf.
And as the tournament's turnout attests, a lot of people loved Corey.
Shawn Hawk and his wife Vyotta remembered their friend, talking animatedly and smiling.
“He was very competitive,” Vyotta said.
“Very competitive,” Shawn agreed.
“Funny,” Vyotta said.
“Very hardheaded,” said Shawn, Corey's former roommate.
“A loyal friend,” Vyotta added. “Once you were Corey's friend, you were Corey's friend for life.”
Three years ago, that friend for life took his own.
“I never in a million years, never thought that he would ever do that,” said Patty, Corey's mother.
The Glennys were devastated.
“It just hurts me to know that he felt this way,” said Gary. “I feel that I let him down and I'm working hard to convince myself that I can't take the blame for it.”
Such feeling of guilt by those left behind are normal. Most suicide survivors suffer in silence and the issue is often shrouded in stigma.
But the Glennys would have none of that. They started a memorial golf tournament to raise their voices, to raise money, and to raise awareness about suicide, which claims 38,000 Americans every year, roughly the same as breast cancer fatalities.
Experts say suicide needs to come out of the darkness. It needs more awareness and more money.
“There are about the same amount of deaths as breast cancer,” said Kelly McEntee, a volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Yet the funding for breast cancer and physical illnesses far surpasses the research dollars that go to suicide and mental health issues.”
The first two years of this golf tournament raised $10,000. Corey's family and friends who organized it hope to raise another $10,000 this year.
The highlight is the 12th hole where every player teed off with Corey's left-handed driver.
The results were comical. Two guys pushed their shots a hundred yards left. Another plopped the ball off the tee, one inch from where it was perched. A fourth whiffed altogether.
There were lots of laughs.
It was almost a perfect day for golf.
Perfect, until several remembered the lefty who wasn't playing but should have been.
Tears weren't hard to find.
Patty had this advice for all parents:
“Talk to your kids and if you see a problem, don't think it's gonna go away because it's not,” she said.
If there is a problem, if things don't feel right. If a friend seems too depressed don't ignore it.
Contact the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention by visiting afsp.org or by calling 212-363-6237.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the leading national not-for-profit organization and has resources and information for those in need.