Kelly Smith's equipment locker remains as a memorial shrine at the Comox 19 Wing fire hall.

Kelly Smith's equipment locker remains as a memorial shrine at the Comox 19 Wing fire hall.

Teeing it up in memory of a friend

Kelly Smith Memorial Golf Tournament open to the public this year

  • Jul. 29, 2015 2:00 p.m.

Earle Couper

Record staff

When Comox Valley Nissan presents the fifth annual Kelly Smith Memorial Tournament, it will be a smooth blend of a community-minded business helping friends remember a fallen comrade and raising money for a great cause.

Sgt. Kelly Smith was a deputy fire chief at 19 Wing Comox Fire Service. Five years ago in April, he left work and never returned.

“Kelly went home on a Friday and it was the typical, ‘What’s going on this weekend?’ conversation,” recalls Sgt. Jerry Snook, fire department supply officer at 19 Wing and co-ordinator of this year’s golf tournament, which goes Aug. 14 at Glacier Greens.

“He goes home on a Friday and Sunday the boys get a call from downtown Comox that he’s passed away with a heart attack,” Snook said.

That is the reason for the tournament; remembering Smith and raising money for the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada.

Smith was 52 at the time of his passing and had no history of heart problems.

“We have a firefighter (fitness) test and if you can pass that you can pretty much do anything. When I said goodbye to him on Friday, I didn’t realize it was going to be the final goodbye,” Snook said.

While Smith’s memory lives on with those who knew him, newcomers to 19 Wing Fire Service have a visual reference point – Smith’s empty equipment stall in the fire service building.

“In the evening, to build up physical fitness as well as speed, core and teamwork, we play ball hockey,” Snook explained. “We kept Kelly’s stall. It has his nameplate, picture and ball hockey stick.

“That will always be there.”

Just a few steps away from Smith’s stall is a trophy case containing the memorial trophy – and it is a piece of art. Snook said Smith “never threw anything away” and one of his fellow firefighters, Rob Mitchell, grabbed some hose couplers and included them on a wood carving  that includes a raised maple leaf and the 19 Wing Fire Service badge.

The maple leaf is a reminder that Smith was a huge Toronto Maple Leafs fan, and Snook joked it was a testament to Smith’s popularity that people still talked to him despite his choice of hockey teams.

The Maple Leafs’ theme is prominent at the tournament.

“All the signs saying Kelly Smith Memorial are in blue and white. All the KP (closest to the pin) and LD (long drive) signs will have the maple leaf flag on them,” said Snook. “Meal tickets have the maple leaf flag on them.

“When I give the rules and regulations I wear a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. I get heckled, but as soon as I say I’m doing it for Kelly, nobody (bothers) me.”

Snook said Smith called the Comox Valley home and was planning to retire here.

“He had over 26 years in the Forces. He was in Bosnia, and Afghanistan and a UN tour. He had probably four, five tours under his belt, plus he worked on ships. He served his country well,” Snook said.

This is the first year the Kelly Smith Tournament has been open to the public, and Snook’s efforts to line up sponsors is already paying dividends.

“We started off small. The first year we kept it within the firehall. We raised a few hundred dollars that year. Next year we did the same.

“Last year one of the guys mentioned we should try to make it a little bigger and get more people involved. We got a couple of sponsors and raised almost $2,400. This year, with the help of sponsors, we’re already at $3,500 and haven’t even swung a club yet.

“In the past four years we made probably $5,000. I’m hoping to make $5,000 just this year, and that’s because we have Comox Valley Nissan as a major sponsor,” Snook said.

Along with sponsoring every hole, Snook said Nissan is offering a hole in one prize of a new vehicle on both the front and back nine.

They have also donated silent auction items.

Brandon Longson, new car sales manager at Comox Valley Nissan, explained the dealership has a business development co-ordinator team that takes on the sponsorship and support of community fundraising projects.

“If it’s something our customers or staff are passionate about, we get involved and give it 100 per cent,” he said.

Earlier this year Nissan put on a tailgate party when several CFL players were in town for the Courtenay Centennial Homecoming Party celebrations, and they will be holding another one at the Kelly Smith Memorial tourney between the ninth and 10th holes with donations going to Heart & Stroke.

“We’re extremely excited to be part of this golf tournament,” Longson added.

Snook has also teed up a host of other sponsors.

Coastal Transportation and Storage is providing two hole in one prizes worth $5,000 and there are KP and long drive prizes for both men and women.

“Comox Fire Rescue is sponsoring a hole plus they donated $400 – $500 total, that’s fantastic,” Snook said. “They lost a firefighter (Capt. Stewart Rennie) two years ago to a heart attack,” Snook noted.

Comox fire chief Gord Schreiner is running a putting contest for the second year in a row, with the prize a whale watching tour by Campbell River Whale Watching & Grizzly Adventure Tours.

“Another big sponsor is Bryce Hansen Realty, who is sponsoring a hole and golf cards. Discovery Harbour Fuels up in Campbell River is sponsoring a hole plus donated a couple of hundred dollars. Also they’re going to have a contest where you hit a whiffle ball into a  bucket. Every time you hit it into the bucket you get a ticket that goes toward a $200 gas card at DHF,” said Snook.

The 18-hole tourney is a four-ball, best-ball format with a 1 p.m. shotgun start. Registration is at Comox Valley Nissan (535 Silverdale Crescent, 250-338-1988) by cash or cheque only. Those wishing to have a golf cart must phone Glacier Greens Golf Course (250-339-6515) to make arrangements.

Snook said he would love to see the tourney hit the 144-player maximum, and notes out-of-town golfers will help in that regard. “We’ve got a foursome coming from Chilliwack. A firefighter used to be here and knew Kelly, now he’s posted in Chilliwack so he’s bringing a team. He was here last year.

“Two or three guys are coming from Edmonton, and Bryce is bringing in some Realtors from western Canada. And we have Campbell River and of course the Comox Valley.”

The $360 per team entry fee includes a ribs and chicken dinner, and Snook says Ben Gill of Gill’s Catering at Glacier Greens cooks the best ribs in the Valley. There will be a silent auction and draw prizes during dinner, which will be preceded by a talk by Tana Darnell, Community Development Coordinator at Heart and Stroke Foundation, explaining how the funds raised will be used.

Along with fundraising and remembering a friend, Snook said, “What’s so great about the tournament, it’s the day before the air show, so as we’re golfing we will see aircraft out practising – at no extra charge.”