By Shawn O’Brate

LANDER – Last Saturday, while Climbers from all across the globe swarmed Lander City Park and the rest of the town, the Lander Golf Course held their annual Elk’s Lodge Tournament which helped benefit local students who need financial help as they head into college or trade school.

The Elk’s Lodge, also known as the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, of Lander has been putting on the tournament for five decades but it hasn’t always been dedicated to scholarships for local Lander Valley students who are moving on to Universities or vocational schools after high school.

“We’ve handed out thirty scholarships in the 12 years we’ve been doing this,” Elk’s volunteer Helen LaRose said as she tallied up scores.

This year the tournament was packed with players as the golf course sold out of spots for the entire day, issuing positions to 80 people across the beautiful greens and fairways and having to borrow golf carts from other golf courses in Fremont County.

“People want to play in the Elk’s tournament,” LaRose said, “they know that this money goes to a good cause here in the Lander Valley, helping the high school students move forward in their lives, what better cause could you want?”

LaRose wasn’t the only one smiling from cheek-to-cheek about the tournament’s attendance, Lander golf pro Greg Stimpson was also ecstatic that the large number of people showed up to play up and down the gorgeous course.

“In terms of sheer numbers this is the biggest tournament we’ve had all season,” Stimpson said, “It was great, it was good for me, the golf course, and the kids that are going to benefit from this.” 

The goal of the Elk’s Lodge Tournament every year is to raise enough money to give four local Lander Valley students at least $1,000 to help with school, but that’s not all the Elk’s Lodge does for the community. In fact, scholarships are just one of the very few acts of community service that members and volunteers help with every single year. 

Year in and year out, the Elk’s Lodge helps provide meals to the community, Christmas gifts to local children, Thanksgiving dinners to families in need, and baskets of necessities during the winter months. 

“In my eyes, it’s all for the children,” Warren Newbauer, the Elk’s member who put together this year’s tournament, said, “We do backpacks, we do eyeglasses, we give needy families clothes and gifts, every year we deliver christmas bags to this community–I think we did 323 baskets last year–where we gave everybody food that applies to it, we make sure that every kid gets a gift so they’ll have at least one gift for Christmas. We just want to help out the children as much as possible.”

Newbauer and Stimpson, both happy that so many people came to support the local group, were grinning and chatting while hordes of people surrounded the putting green.

“It’s just amazing when we have something like this, with a small community,” Stimpson said, “these people get asked to donate to everything and for this to be this large and for people to come out and donate not only their money but their time, my hats off to the people who made this all possible.”

The two sat and laughed as they watched members, and non-members, donate $5 per putt for a chance to make an extremely long putt to win some extra cash themselves. In the end nobody would make the putt but a few extra hundred dollars was raised in the process, as well as some fun times between strangers and friends alike.

Overall the tournament was a huge success, with a sold-out number of golfers and almost double the amount of sponsors for every tee box, and is being groomed to be even bigger next year.