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Reunion Gs: Genealogy and Golf

by Edith Wagner
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Fun Things to Do on Reunion Day
Have you ever considered putting on an historical fashion show or holding your own golf tournament? It turns out that genealogy and golf are two of the most popular activities for family reunions. Reunion expert Edith Wagner shares interesting ways to incorporate both into your family's big day.

What on earth could genealogy have in common with golf? Unlikely as it may seem, genealogy and golf share more than the same first letter. They are also two top family reunion activities.

Genealogy Stars at Reunions

  • Display your family tree, copies of important papers, certificates, letters, diaries, documents, pictures, slides, videos. Have a mystery picture table where members can help identify ancestors' faces and places.

  • Display family heirlooms, artifacts and treasures. For traveling reunions, one member might volunteer to assemble these and take pictures or videos to share at the reunion.

  • Stage a historic fashion show with clothes found in family attics or trunks.

  • Take a heritage haunt! Visit places of significance to your family, living members as well as ancestors. These can include farms, homes, churches, schools, parks, fishing holes, playgrounds, places where you went as children, or locations of your ancestors -- where families settled, even if no one lives there anymore. Some families follow trails their ancestors traversed on the way to Oregon or the Gold Rush.

  • Incorporate aspects of your family's ethnicity into reunion programming. Has anyone visited the country(ies) of your family(ies) origin? Ask them to prepare a program, slides, videos, pictures from the trip. Present a program about how your ancestors left their homes to embark on a real life adventure and resettle in the new world. Better yet, start planning a dream reunion to visit where your ancestors lived before emigrating.

  • Teach children some words in your family's native language which is something they all have in common. Tell children stories of the family's national origin. Teach crafts, songs, dances and games from the days of your forefathers.

  • Create a cookbook using family heritage recipes and including some appropriate family history, pictures and genealogy.

  • Establish a tradition of storytelling. Concentrate at first on the oldest generations so they can also impart family history, tradition and culture to the family. Entice children by highlighting adventure and intrigue. How did ancestors survive emigration? natural disasters? wars? Did they traverse mountains, ford streams, live in covered wagons? enter through Ellis Island?

  • Start an oral history tradition by interviewing all generations. Capture the oldest members before they can talk no more. Let all ages tell about their lives and stories that will help their descendants know them later. Tape children now. Ask about their day-to-day lives and plan to listen to their tapes 10 or 20 years later

Tee-Off to a Great Game of Reunion Golf

Upon reviewing a reunion study by Reunions magazine and East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, we discovered that golf was listed more than any other as an important reunion activity. In fact, the traditional golf outing is often one of the most popular reunion events. The companionship inherent in the grand old game makes it a perfect reunion activity. So for those who plan to advance the ball at their next reunion, here are some golf-related ideas and suggestions.

  • If you're organizing a golf event near home, your resources are at your favorite golf course. But when you're organizing from out-of-town, take advantage of on-site or nearby resources to help plan a memorable golf event for your reunion.

  • From sea to shining sea, golf around the country is varied and challenging, but how do out-of-towners get the particulars? Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVB) know the local pulse and can greatly simplify planning. Use the resources of the local tourism or Convention and Visitors Bureau for general golf information or include golf in your criteria for choosing a reunion location.

  • Another important resource is golf course staff experienced at planning tournaments. Before your reunion you'll want to coordinate your tournament's format with the golf club's pro shop, including player pairings, rain contingency plans, even food and beverages.

Reunion Golf Tournament

If your family includes enough serious golfers, you may want to develop a golf tournament. You'll need to establish a goal for your tournament. Will it be for camaraderie or competition? Are these expert players who want to be challenged or novices who want an easier course? Reunion members golf skills may vary widely. Tournament organizers or golf professionals at most resorts can help you select a course and create a tournament that is a challenge for serious golfers and fun for others. The Newton Family teed off with a golf tournament at their Kentucky reunion. To get into the swing, participants put their names in a hat. Chance determined teams — creating amusing mismatches of "real" golfers with enthusiastic novices. Some returned with trophies but everyone came back grinning.

The cost per person just to play golf varies depending on where you play. Remember to send announcements early to get a definite head count; ask golf handicaps and whether members need to rent golf clubs or shoes. Handicaps help match players by skill level. The option of renting equipment on-site is for members' convenience. You may also wish to include a layout of the course and rules of the game, and slip in some notes about dress etiquette.

Things to Consider on Reunion Day

Mother Nature: In the event of rain, consider alternate activities such as indoor putting contests, golf videotapes or instruction from the club's pro. The pro shop should have lots of ideas.

Reunion rewards: Offer something for everyone — the more prizes the better. Consider embroidered logo caps, t-shirts, towels or ball sleeves or smaller items like head covers, putter props, cleaning brushes or divot tools. If your members are avid players, and if you can afford to do so, make rewards golf-specific; paraphernalia, like bags, clubs, drivers, putters and outerwear, gift certificates to golf shops, trays, bowls, goblets, champagne glasses engraved with the reunion logo. Prizes for the more serious golfers might include a driver for the longest drive. For the shortest drive, a golf instruction book or a fishing kit will poke a bit of fun at the winner. If you are a regular customer, a local sports shop might donate prizes. Don't limit yourself to the traditional. Be imaginative. Keep in mind that some members who don't drive to the reunion have to carry their gifts home - travel size and suitcase weight.

The win-win approach to prizes: The most democratic approach to awards is to hold a drawing for the really large prizes so all tournament participants from duffers to low handicappers have an equal shot at winning. Finally, according to tradition, the prize for the winner of a hole-in-one contest is a car. Odds against a hole-in-one are one in 12,500. Hole-in-one insurance is available from a handful of companies nationwide.

Friendly family competition: The Hebner Family Reunion in Michigan has established two annual awards, the William Ford Hebner, Sr. Trophy for the golfer with the best score with a handicap and the Uncle Bruce Perkins Award for the best score without a handicap. Other prizes are given for "not keeping your eye on the ball," "most improved," and top junior players.


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How-To Article: Reunion Day — Managing the Event and Time
How-To Article: Sharing Family Research at the Reunion
How-To Article: The Size and Shape of Your Reunion

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