Huge golf tournament is about to tee off in South Mississippi

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Biloxi Slavic Lodge is giving a boost to South Mississippi's economy this weekend. This year's golf tournament is the biggest one yet, with golfers coming in from Wisconsin, New York, Las Vegas and even Puerto Rico.

The men of the Biloxi Slavic Lodge plan all year long for the golf tournament. They spend the week leading up to the event cooking meals and loading trucks with supplies for the golf courses.

"It's like the holy week of our organization," President of The Biloxi Slavic Lodge Andrew Gilich said.

Every year more than 150 people volunteer to make sure the golf tournament remains a favorite of amateur golfers.

"We had a guy call and say his father-in-law passed away a few years ago and he wanted his money back. We told him no problem, there was a death in the family. Then he called back an hour later and said they rescheduled the funeral around the golf tournament," Michael Kovacevich said with a smile on his face.

The golf tournament began 40 years ago with just 23 golfers. This year there are more than 1,000 golfers signed up and they even had to turn some away.

"I was actually the first member to tee off for the golf tournament," Marion Pitalo recalled. "I had people there taking pictures and I actually missed the ball."

Pitalo never imagined the event that began as a way to keep members interested in the organization would turn into what it is today.

"No idea whatsoever," Pitalo said. "We thought it would be a little yearly function that would probably have 30 or 40 of us playing for fun."

Now 65 percent of the golfers come from out of town every year. The tourism bureau estimates each room night equals about $300 in revenue for South Mississippi. This year the tournament has 1,000 room nights booked.

"The golfers are a good profile in the economy," Gilich said. "We think [they] bring in more than the $300 a night."

While it is a lot of work preparing for the tourney, once tee time comes, it is all about fun.

"If you can't have a good time in this tournament, you can't have a good time. You need therapy," Gilich said.

The tournament tees off on Friday on six different golf courses and goes through Sunday.

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