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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Memorial Golf Classic

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Jerry Homan was a star center for the Marquette University basketball team during the glorious Al McGuire era, when Marquette went to the NCAA tournament every season. In 2006, Jerry and his wife, Patti, suffered a tragic loss when their only child, Luke, who was a student at UW-La Crosse, drowned in the Mississippi River. Along with friends, the Homan family has created the Luke Homan Memorial Golf Classic to benefit charities in Luke’s name.

Luke was your only child. He was lost in one of those mysterious drownings of college students in La Crosse. How did you and your wife cope with this tragedy?

It has been two and a half years. We still remember getting the call from Luke’s cousin, who was there visiting him in La Crosse for Oktoberfest. They were going to have a golf outing the next day. Then on Saturday night we got a call from Brian, his cousin, saying, “Aunt Patti, we can’t find Luke.” In 20 minutes we were on our way to La Crosse. We got posters up, stopped in to the police to notify them and then looked for Luke throughout the night. That went on for two days. The police tracked him with the dogs and that sort of thing until they found his body a few days later.

It’s been tough. Every day is a struggle to get out of bed and go on without him. Everything we see reminds us of Luke. We always have him in the back of our minds. He was a great kid and we only had him for 21 years. But we have been very lucky. Our friends and relatives have been very supportive and good to us, making sure that we’re OK.

How did Luke’s death spur you to develop a memorial golf outing?

After he died in October, around Christmas I had lunch with Rick Majerus, the coach for St. Louis and a very good friend. We had lunch at Saz’s. Rick said that we should do a golf outing or something to remember Luke and keep his name going and start a foundation to give money to charity. I said, “I kind of thought about that.” After that, Rick met with Steve Sazama, owner of Saz’s, who is actually my brother-in-law, and between the two of them they decided to get this rolling. And Mark Cirillo from my wife’s business at Wirtz Beverage Wisconsin; all of us worked to get this outing going that next July. It’s been very successful.

What do you want to accomplish with this effort?

We want to raise money, all of which goes back to charity. There are four charities that benefit from it. We have a Luke Homan Foundation, which gives scholarships to Brookfield Central seniors. We’ve given out seven in the last three years. And we also give to the Sky Ranch for Boys, which is a ranch in South Dakota for wayward boys. You can go there for anywhere from six months to a year and a half to get straightened out. And then the Special Olympics and the Variety Club of Wisconsin, which works with kids with special prostheses needs, or supplies vans for kids who get around in wheelchairs. All of the charities help kids.

How successful have the golf tournaments been?

We’ve had two, and the third is coming up. When we first started we thought it would be great if we’d raise $40,000 or so. But the first year we raised $80,000 and last year we raised $85,000. It’s a great day. This year it’s at the Legend at Brandybrook on June 15 and we have great prizes donated. Joe Thomas, one of Luke’s buddies from high school, who plays for the Cleveland Browns, donated a shirt. And everyone who plays gets a shirt plus another item. Some of the items we have on auction are a boat trip on Lake Michigan, a week’s stay in Scottsdale with airfare, a signed [Andrew] Bogut jersey—Rick Majerus has a basketball package (four games and a two-night stay in Chicago)—and many more items.

With the tougher economy, do you think you’ll raise more than the $85,000 you raised last year?

I don’t know. It’s tough, but we are getting a good response. The first year we had 150 golfers and last year we had 190. I don’t know if we’ll get to those numbers, but we’ll have a good turnout. If people want to just come for dinner, they can do that too. We have Steve “The Homer” True as emcee, and he does a great job. It’s a fun night. The food is great.


The Luke Homan Memorial Golf Classic is Monday, June 15, at The Legend at Brandybrook, 1 Legend Way, Wales, Wis. For more information, call (262) 968-9717.