Participants and sponsors keep lining up one month before the inaugural Ray Kaligian III Memorial Golf Tournament at Geneva’s Mill Creek.
Organizer Bryan Knapp and Kaligian’s parents, Ray and Bobbie, knew corralling their emotions would be a different story even as the event began taking shape last fall.
“The good thing is people are remembering him,” Bobbie Kaligian said. “The bad thing is is why we are remembering him, because he is gone. You know, we’re so grateful for everyone that continues to remember him. As you can tell, it’s just heart-wrenching for us.”
With his dog, Willie, at his side, Kaligian died from carbon monoxide poisoning in his Houston home in February 2013. More than a year later, many who encountered the 2003 Geneva graduate – an accomplished golfer and baseball player – cling to his inviting personality.
Knapp, Kaligian’s longtime friend and Vikings golf teammate, initially planned a benefit for last summer. Before long, he realized it was best to allow the family to grieve and the project to take a backseat.
On tournament day, July 12, the Kaligians expect family from Massachusetts and other parts of the northeast, their son’s business associates from Houston and West Virginia and scores of local supporters who relished his time on Tri-Cities courses.
Kaligian still holds Geneva’s school record for lowest nine-hole score with a 32 at Mill Creek. How he arrived there made it elementary for Knapp to choose a golf tournament as a tribute.
“The thing that was remarkable was baseball was actually his first love, I think his first sport,” Knapp said. “When he was a freshman, he was kind of a greenhorn to golf, if you will, kind of new to the game. But when senior year rolled around, he was a captain, all-conference multiple times and someone who you would look at to get a big score all the time.”
And, simultaneously, someone who would not volunteer anything about that lofty status.
Reflecting on the past year-plus and the upcoming tournament, Kaligian’s father stresses that Knapp isn’t short on humility, either.
“Bryan has a huge heart and it didn’t shock me,” Ray Kaligian said. “It’s a pretty big undertaking and Bryan has taken on the organization like a champ. He – like my wife and I and family and friends – every day miss my son. This is something that Bryan really wanted to do, and we support him 100 percent.”
Knapp admits he “got used to losing in just about every sport” he and Kaligian played. Even though Kaligian, who would have been 30 this year, was just a few months older, Knapp viewed him as somewhat of a big brother because Kaligian was an only child.
Their friendship extended nearly 20 years after the Kaligians moved to Geneva from Massachusetts in 1993.
“The response has been unbelievable as far as families donating on holes and as far as companies and corporations donating their products, donating their money. It’s really overwhelming for us,” Knapp said.
Geneva dedicated its 2013 boys golf season to Kaligian, wearing commemorative patches on team polos. A memorial bench near the Geneva High School baseball field was dedicated in his honor, as well.
The tournament, an 18-hole scramble, costs $100 a player per four-person team and includes golf and dinner. Golf only costs $75, with dinner priced at $25. For more information or to register, log on to www.kaykaligian3memorialgolf.com.
“It’s just a wonderful thing, the support we’re getting,” Bobbie Kaligian said. “We’re truly blessed to have so many people who want to remember Ray in this way.”
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.