by darren reese
GREENEVILLE – A little more than ten years ago, Scott Bullington – director of the Boys & Girls Club of Greeneville and Greene County – made a cold call.
Bullington was wanting to start an annual fundraising golf tournament for the organization and he needed a well-known person to headline it.
He called Voice of the Tennessee Vols, Bob Kesling. The rest is history.
Kesling, who has an extensive resume of charitable efforts in East Tennessee, didn’t hesitate when Bullington asked if he would mind putting his name on the event.
Fast forward a decade and the 10th annual Bob Kesling Boys & Girls Club Celebrity Golf Classic is beginning to take shape. This year’s tournament will be held on Friday, June 14 at Link Hills Golf Club.
Kesling was in Greeneville Tuesday afternoon for an organizational meeting for the Classic, and took time to emphasize why helping organizations like the Boys & Girls Club is so important to him.
“All you have to do is walk through the (Greeneville) Boys & Girls Club building one time and, first, you see the fact that we need a new facility here so badly,” Kesling said. “But more importantly, you see kids who would have no place else to go after school if they didn’t have some kind of stability like this in their lives.”
“The Boys & Girls Club helps them learn life skills, it helps them with their homework after school, it teaches them how to get along with other people. They have a chance to learn things that they might not get otherwise, and that’s very important.”
The tournament serves as one of the major fundraising efforts for the local Boys & Girls Club every year, and it is also one of the most highly-anticipated outings on the area golf calendar.
Kesling invites numerous celebrities from the region, and each will be partnered with one of the four-person teams. Over the years, the event has saw the likes of Johnny Majors, John Ward, Condredge Holloway, Bruce Pearl, Chris Lofton Cuonzo Martin, just to name a few, as well as local coaches such as Tusculum’s Frankie DeBusk and Carson-Newman’s Ken Sparks.
Golfers are treated to both lunch and dinner, as well as a variety of contests and a silent auction.
“The celebrities are mainly just friends of mine,” Kesling said, “and many of them take the day off and come up here and have a good time while supporting this great cause.”
“To see the interaction from the people in the tournament with the celebrities is a lot of fun.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Greeneville and Greene County is just one of a long lists of charities that Kesling supports.
He is currently on the board of Goodwill and the YMCA of Knoxville. His also heads up the Light The Night Walk, which supports the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Kesling was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma in November of 2009.
Kesling also just took over as chairman of the United Way Campaign of Knox County, which is made up of 46 United Way agencies.
In 2008, he was awarded with the Tennessee Area Council C.A.R.E. (Children Are Reason for Excellence) Service Award for his volunteer work with Tennessee Boys & Girls Clubs.
“It’s one of those deals where you worry about getting spread to thin, but you know there is such a need out there,” Kesling said.
“The needs in Knoxville are the same as the needs in Greeneville. So many people run into a situation in their lives and they don’t know where to go, they don’t know where to turn to. Things like the United Way and the Boys & Girls Club tries to help them understand that there is a solution.”
And so when Bullington made that call asking Kesling for his help with starting up a tournament, it was something Kesling felt he needed to do.
“There wasn’t a reason not to do it,” Kesling said. “It’s for the kids.”
“The Greeneville community has really embraced it. I feel like I’m part of the community up here, and it’s really been terrific. And when you see the money that is raised going to the club and helping these kids, it’s a win-win situation.”
Bullington remembers that when approached with the idea, Kesling didn’t want to be someone who just put his name on the tournament.
“Bob wanted to help with the entire event,” Bullington said. “And he has helped more than we could ever imagine. He has came to Greeneville countless times over the last ten years to promote and organize the event, and he has never missed a golf committee meeting.”
Over the past ten years, the tournament has raised well over a half-million for the programs at the Boys & Girls Club of Greeneville and Greene County, and officials say last year’s event was one of the most successful yet.
“Bob helps in all aspects for the golf event, and has been a driving force behind its tremendous success,” said Jerry Fortner, Co-Chairman of the Bob Kesling Classic.
Kesling has been the lead announcer for the Tennessee football and men’s basketball teams for the past 11 years, but according to Bullington, “for the youth at the Boys & Girls Clubs across the state of Tennessee, they know Kesling as a true Volunteer.”
For those wanting more information on the Bob Kesling Boys & Girls Club Celebrity Golf Classic, call Bullington or Bridget Jones at (423) 787-9322, or visit the club website at http://www.ggcbgc.org.