GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Golfers were celebrating more than the weather at Shell Landing in Gautier on Saturday. Because for one day, the big winner was local charity, as South Mississippi celebrated the legacy of a community leader, the late Jolly McCarty.
"We did this initially to honor Jolly McCarty who was a long-time [member] on our staff there at Merchant Marine Bank," said Royce Cumbest, CEO of Merchants and Marine Bank. "Of course, Jolly was very involved in different community events, particularly those that benefited children, and he was also an avid golfer."
Golfers played the course Saturday and pulled in sponsorships for the cause. It was an early morning for many of them, who attended a gala Friday night to kick off the weekend. The gala, held at the IP Casino in Biloxi, was emceed by WLOX's own Jeff Lawson.
"It's a huge success in that we're going to make an awful lot of money this week," said Robbie Maxwell, Chairman of the foundation's Board of Directors. "And it's going to help a lot of needy agencies."
Jolly McCarty's wife, Evelyn McCarty, played the course Saturday. She said she's overwhelmed by the generosity of the other 265 golfers who joined her.
"I cannot express to you what I think about this," McCarty said. "I'm just overwhelmed by the number of people who realize the need for us to take care of the organizations that might have gone under after Katrina."
Among those are the Boys and Girls Club, CASA and even the Salvation Army. Salvation Army Captain Andy Collette said without the funds raised at this golf tournament, his chapter just wouldn't be able to meet Jackson County's needs as well as it does.
"The Bacot McCarty Foundation can just come and put in the leadership, put in the volunteer support that's needed, so that we can become more successful, and do more with less," Collette said.
This year's event raised more than $200,000 for the local community. Organizers said it was the biggest ever.
"This is bigger and better by far," Cumbest said. "Actually, more participation, both at the gala, the auction last night and also participation here was as good as you can get at a golf tournament."
Several local celebrities made appearances at Saturday's tournament. They include former NFL players Reggie Collier, Ray Guy and Louis Lipps. WLOX's Jeff Lawson also participated.
Organizers fell just short of their original goal of raising a quarter million dollars. Nonetheless, all the money raised will go to local charity.