DECATUR — Cory Evans may live in Champaign now, but he wouldn’t dream of missing the annual United Cerebral Palsy/Miller Lite Barstool Open in Decatur.
It’s not just fun to get a taste of golf during the dead of winter, he said, and to team up with three of his classmates from St. Teresa High School’s Class of 1993.
“It’s for a good cause,” Evans said. “We’ve probably played every year since it got started.”
Such loyalty is one reason Decatur’s fundraiser has been the largest of its kind in the nation for the past few years, and why the 12th annual event Saturday is on track to set new records with more than 2,000 people expected to play.
Tournament director Denny Harris, sales and operation manager at Geo. A. Mueller Beer Co., said Decatur’s event started in 2002 with 50 teams and nine bars and this weekend will involve 520 teams and 52 bars. “We have seven different courses this year,” Harris said. “Four have the Knights of Columbus Hall as the starting and ending point; the other three have the AIW Hall.”
Each course includes seven or eight holes, depending on how far players have to travel, and First Student buses will transport golfers from one bar to the next. Buses will begin running at 10 a.m. and play begins at 11 a.m.
The Bourbon Barrel, 48 Inn Bar & Grill and Pastabilities are among the establishments participating, and for each, the 12th annual event is far from their first year.
Co-owner Kim Miller said the Bourbon Barrel wants to support fundraising that stays local, and owner DeeDee Luttrell said this is the first year the 48 Inn is tweaking one of its previous holes instead of building a new course.
Angie Constant, co-owner of Pastabilities, said her husband, Jon, and his friend Red Brandt are building a new course just like always because they’ve donated many of their previous ones to Springfield United Cerebral Palsy.
Having a cousin in Florida who has benefited from the agency’s work doesn’t hurt either, she said. “A lot of progress has been made over the years.”
Last year’s Barstool Open in Decatur raised $72,000.
Jenny Dawson, local UCP director, said she attributes part of Decatur’s success to timing.
“It’s always on Martin Luther King weekend, which makes it easier for people to come from out of town to play,” Dawson said. “The holidays have also come and gone, and people have cabin fever and are looking for something to do.”