Putters raise money for Fairhaven

WARREN – For most people, getting a hole-in-one at Putt-Putt is mostly luck. This is not so for the members of the Professional Putters Association, who stepped up to the green for a good cause Friday evening.

The group – which is holding a two-day tournament this weekend – raised about $2,000 for Fairhaven through a fundraiser at the Putt-Putt Fun Center, 3937 Youngstown Road S.E.

“The idea came from the Pro Putters Association. They like to pick a nonprofit and they picked us,” said Linda Tiihonen, Fairhaven Foundation director.

Fairhaven provides services and support to physically and/or mentally disabled individuals and their families.

PPA Pros Players Committee Chairman Bill Baus said the association holds about three or four large tournaments per year, this being one of them. For the fundraiser, which was held Friday before their competitive rounds this weekend, he said they like to find an organization in the community that they know will be able to benefit from a couple thousand dollars.

“We decided that as a group we really wanted to give back to the community where we play,” he said.

About a dozen members of Fairhaven were paired with professional putters from all over the nation – some from as far as San Diego.

“I like the competition part, but it’s really neat to do something for a worthy cause,” said Greg Ward, pro putter from Loganville, Ga.

Ward, who was named Putter of the Decade for both the 1990s and the 2000s, was paired with Jared Harper, 29, a Fairhaven client, and his father Doug Harper, both of Champion.

“It’s been so long since I played it,” said Jared Harper.

Lack of experience didn’t keep him from scoring a hole-in-one on the seventh hole, though. Ward said he came out to practice all day Thursday and Friday in preparation for today’s tournament. Knowing the nuances of the course will come in handy.

Across the way, pro putter Dave Jones, 63, of Warren, was helping guide Fairhaven worker Ulinda Thomas, 49, also of Warren, through another putt.

“I have the local advantage, I just don’t have the local skill,” he joked.

Paired with the two was Nicolette Darkangelo, 40, of Champion, who is a case worker for Fairhaven. She admitted Putt-Putt isn’t her specialty.

“I think I should stick with case work. Don’t you, Ulinda?” said Darkangelo.

Despite the high stroke counts, the fundraiser was a success in many ways.

“It’s nice just for them to have the opportunity to be out in the community and to be able to advocate for themselves,” Darkangelo said.

Dubbed the National Northern Open, the two-day Putt-Putt event has drawn competitors from across the nation to compete for $10,000 and the right to advance to the national putting finals in Burlington, N.C., in September.

The Warren event – a pro-am tournament – kicks off at 11 a.m. today and closes Sunday afternoon.