LUMBERTON — The good time had each year by participants at the Clifford Bullard Memorial Golf Tournament is ultimately secondary to the money raised to help local students attend Robeson Community College.
Even Phil Ford and Al Wood would agree.
The two University of North Carolina basketball legends are among the participants for this year’s tournament, which will be held Thursday at Pinecrest Country Club in Lumberton.
“It’s a great cause for the college, and we’re helping a lot with scholarships for folks that can’t normally go, and hopefully we’re helping them out,” said Clif Bullard, son of the tournament’s namesake. “One of the things Dad loved, he loved that college.”
In its 36-year history, the tournament has raised over $325,000 for the Robeson Community College Foundation; this includes consistently raising around $25,000 per year over the last several years.
“It’s grown pretty substantially, but it’s grown too because the Bullards have really taken ownership of the tournament, which makes a difference,” said RCC Foundation director Rebekah Revels Lowry. “They really get involved, and they have ideas they bring to the table and want to help. It really makes a difference when you have a community that’s working hard and a family that’s working hard.”
As of Friday morning there are 27 four-person teams signed up to play, Lowry said.
“We’ve averaged probably 125 golfers in the field every year,” said tournament chairman Bruce Mullis, who has been involved in the tournament for nearly three decades. “A lot of people have supported the foundation for many years, through sponsorships and the golfers playing in the golf tournament.”
The tournament was named for Clifford Bullard after his death in 2003. Previously, Bullard was the owner of what is now Carolina Golf Club in Lumberton, where the event was held until a few years ago, and covered the green and cart fees for tournament participants.
His sons, Clif and Drew Bullard, have continued to do so, and Bullard Restaurant Group, which they own, also provides catering from Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q.
“Golf tournaments are a hard fundraiser,” Lowry said. “It can be a beast because there’s lots of expenses on the back side that people don’t think of. But we’re so fortunate because we have this family that helps us so much, and they provide us food and we don’t have to take on that particular expense.”
Ford and Wood have played the event the last few years. Ford played at UNC from 1974-78, was a three-time All-American, won ACC and national player of the year awards, and led the Tar Heels to the 1977 national championship game. Wood was an All-American and three-time All-ACC player in his career from 1977-81.
Ford said the tournament is important to him because of its cause supporting education.
“I’m really big on education,” Ford said. “My mom and dad were public school teachers, so anytime I can get an opportunity to do something for education, I try to do it, I try to help out as much as I can. Some old friends get together and tee it up for a great cause, so it’s always a lot of fun.”
A bonus for Ford is the chance to visit Robeson County, where he has family ties.
“I enjoy going to Robeson County because my dad grew up in Marietta,” Ford said. “Anytime I get a chance to come back I take advantage of it.”
For tournament organizers, having regional celebrities like Ford and Wood in attendance elevates the event.
“People geek out if their favorite team has a celebrity there,” Lowry said. “I think it’s human nature, when you see someone you put on a different status, they’re connected to this great, amazing team that’s made history in the field of basketball; when they’re attached to your tournament, it gives the tournament a different type of status.
“We welcome people to come out and meet the guys. They were really open to that last year, they signed autographs.”
An added element in Ford and Wood’s participation this year is that the chance to play the tournament paired with each will be auctioned off, adding to the money being raised for the RCC Foundation (see related story, page A4).
Beyond the basketball stars in attendance, many of those playing the event have ties to the Bullard family.
“We know everybody, and Clif has a lot of his old fraternity brothers who knew our dad, they’ve made it a point to come support his memory, and support the school,” Drew Bullard said.
But even those without any direct ties to the Bullard family or to RCC will still enjoy the event.
“The golfers who participate, they always seem to highly enjoy the tournament and the door prizes and the food and the logistical setup,” Mullis said. “Everybody always seems to have a really good time, and we’ve been blessed with good weather just about every time we’ve had the tournament.”
The event is a super ball/captain’s choice format, with four-person teams. Shotgun starts will be held at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., with registration at 7:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and lunch at noon.
Fees include mulligans, ladies tees, cart, refreshments, lunch and prizes. There is also an ongoing raffle and a chance to win $500.
Individuals can sign up for $75, with four-player sign-ups including super sponsor for $350, bronze sponsor for $500, silver sponsor for $1,000, gold sponsor for $2,500 and platinum sponsor for $5,000. Hole sponsorships are also available for $150. Fees can be paid online at https://tinyurl.com/RCCFoundation, or registration can be mailed to the RCC Foundation at P.O. Box 1420, Lumberton, N.C., 28359, or faxed to 910-272-3237.
As the tournament continues to grow, Clif Bullard says it will only help Robeson County to grow into the future, too.
“All the money we can raise, 100% of it goes straight to the college. That’s the idea,” Clif Bullard said. “The better we can do helping the college, the long run is helping the community with educating our folks in Robeson County, which is better for all of us.
“Our goal is to make (the tournament) grow, whether it’s a little bit or a lot, every year. We try to make it better every year for the college.”