A decade of honoring Jody
EAGLE — Ten years ago, devastated by the loss of their husband, father and brother, Jody Hern’s family decided to organize a golf tournament in his honor with the proceeds earmarked for a scholarship fund at Eagle Valley High School.
A decade has passed, but Hern’s legacy of character, heart and leadership lives on with his namesake tournament, which was played Saturday at Eagle Ranch Golf Club. During the past decade, the event has raised more than $60,000 and in turn awarded money to college bound students, Eagle Valley High School teams and kids in the community.
“It was always our goal to keep it going,” said Shawn Morrison, Hern’s brother and the tournament organizer. That is typically the goal when a memorial event debuts, but often such efforts eventually run their course and disappear as time passes. However, Morrison said the sheer joy the tourney organizers get from handing out proceeds motivates them to keep the event going.
“This is our one lasting connection to Joe, and he would have loved it,” said Morrison.
Thirty foursomes signed up to play this year, and following the tournament, a huge raffle was held. That’s where a big portion of the tournament proceeds are generated.
“We had about $3,000 worth of tools donated this year,” said Morrison. “It took more than an hour to give out all the raffle prizes.”
Competing with character
The tournament typically generates around $8,000 and to date, 12 Eagle Valley High School senior wrestlers have received the annual Jody Hern Memorial Award, reflecting Hern’s love for the sport.
During his sophomore year at Eagle Valley, Hern placed sixth in his weight class at the Colorado State Wrestling Championships. Then as a junior and a senior he came in second twice, losing to the same competitor — a wrestler from Meeker.
After that first loss his junior year, Morrison recalled how everyone in his brother’s family and friends circle urged him to change weight class so he wouldn’t have to face the same competitor again at the state tournament. Hern flatly refused to do that.
“He said that would mean he was running from someone. He said ‘I have to beat that kid or it means nothing,’” said Morrison.
The state title bout Hern’s senior year was a battle for the ages. He cut his head early in the match and had to wrestle with his head wrapped up like a mummy. Hern lost that match by a single point.
It’s that type of sheer grit that his memorial reward honors, Morrison said. The Eagle Valley High School coaches always make sure the award recipient understands how Hern exemplified character, heart and leadership when they hand out the scholarship.
“The kids always shed a tear or two,” said Morrison. “The coaches really emphasize how special it is.”
The tournament proceeds are also distributed to the Eagle Valley High School football and baseball programs. One year the speech and debate program received funding as did a Bike to School effort at Brush Creek Elementary School.
“The school sponsored this contest for kids to bike to school every day and promised a new bike to the winner. Three kids tied for the award and the school only had enough money for two bikes so we funded the third one,” said Morrison.
Last year, the tournament offered to offset the cost of a letter jacket for one male and one female athlete at Eagle Valley High School. Morrison said presenting a customized letter jacket to Eagle Valley baseball manager Daniel Valdez is his favorite donation to date.
“You could just see it in his face how much it meant to him,” said Morrison.
Fun in the Sun
While the legacy of the Jody Hern Memorial Tournament is to help local kids, the event itself is all about fun. People remember Hern fondly, share stories about his exploits and do what they always do during a golf tournament — hit balls well, hit balls badly and laugh a lot.
As for Morrison, the day before the event he said he hoped this year would be the year his team broke its auspicious record. He always plays the tournament with a foursome that includes his wife and sons. He noted that Team Morrison always come in dead last.
“We have been practicing more this year. We are going to hoping to come in 29th out of the 30 teams,” he said.