Birdies flock to Ruggles for charity invitational

By YVONNE JOHNSON, APG NewsAugust 24, 2009

1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Russell Irvine, a member of the Maryland Birdie golf club from Gambrills, Md., shows good form while teeing off on Ruggles Golf Course during the 2009 Maryland Birdies Invitational Golf Tournament, the first to be held on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Jul... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
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Ruggles Golf Course hosts several tournaments throughout the season and for the first time it played host to an international golf club consisting of several members with Aberdeen Proving Ground ties. The Maryland Birdies 2009 Invitational Golf Tournament was held July 18. The tournament followed three days of activities for club members that included attending an Aberdeen Ironbirds game, touring historic Havre de Grace and Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Great Blacks in Wax Museum.

Clubs in attendance hailed from Georgia, Virginia, New York and Canada. Maryland Birdies president, retired Lt. Col. Derrick Bryant former operations officer, 203rd Millitary Intelligence Battalion, said it was the club's first hosting of the annual tournament.

"We play together one weekend each month from April to October at local golf courses in Maryland and Pennsylvania," Bryant said, adding that about 120 golfers participated in the event and that Birdies clubs located in North Carolina and Cape Cod, Mass., were unable to attend.

He said that following the 2008 Invitational that was held in Canada last year, they were challenged to hold "this historical event."

"I stood up on that bus and said, 'Maryland, we're gonna do it,'" he said.

Planning started last August and Bryant said he could not thank club officers and members enough. He also expressed thanks to Ruggles manager Deborah Long and the Ruggles Golf Course staff. "They worked with us to help us have a successful event," Bryant said. "Everyone came together for a common goal.

"It's not about golf," he added. "Everything that we do that leads up to the golf is what brings us together."

"Supporting our community is a part of our club bylaws and we believe in helping our young people grow up to be good citizens," he said.

Bryant said that Birdies clubs are required to donate proceeds to local charities and that proceeds from the Ruggles invitational would go to the Boys and Girls Club in Havre de Grace. He commended Ted Cabrall, the oldest member from the Virginia Birdies, for inspiring his participation.

"He treats golf like a business, with passion and sincerity," Bryant said.

Cabrall said he was proud of the way the Birdies have expanded over the years to include adding women.

"I'm glad women are here to see what we're trying to do and what we've done," he said, adding that the Virginia Birdies would donate $500 to the Maryland Birdies charity.

"A lot of organizations can't do that," he said. "We work together and we do a lot because we're doing it for the children."

Several Maryland Birdies Club members are retired civilians and military from the installation. They include retired Lt. Col. Richard Carey who also is a lay leader in the Edgewood Area Chapel's Protestant Service; retired 1st Sgt. Jeffrey Averett, choir director in the Aberdeen Area Chapel's Gospel Service; Mansfield Spicer, a retired chemist formerly with the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center; Edgar Collins, past president and a retired heavy equipment operator formerly with the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center; and Milton Leigh of Aberdeen, a retired APG Soldier and civilian.

Carey, who also instructed ROTC cadets at Morgan State University, and his wife Doris put together a slide show of last year's invitational that was held in Canada. Carey said their love of the game brought them to the group four years ago and that their shared commitment to the community has kept them there.

"The Birdies are just a bunch of folks who love to play golf and enjoy each other's company," he said.

Averett, the Maryland Birdies chaplain, said he enjoys playing with the group but likes the purpose of it more.

"I like being a part of what all of this means," Averett said. "It means positive things for our community and our youth. I've learned a lot about the game from some of our older players but community is really what it's all about."

"It's a good sport to bring people together if you want to reach out and help others," added Spicer. "We chose the Boys and Girls Club because children are our future. I'm happy and proud to be a part of this organization."

Collins, who co-founded the Maryland Birdies in 2003, served at Edgewood Arsenal during his military career and later retired from ATC. A co-founder of the Maryland Birdies, he said organizers were impressed with the organization after being invited to play with the Virginia Birdies in Petersburg in the 1990s and decided to form a Maryland chapter. Collins served as the group's second president after co-founder retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Perlis Finney who also was in attendance.

"It's all about making friends with folks from all over," Collins said. "We're going to be playing golf no matter what. That's secondary. We're all about helping young people."

Canadian Birdies president Bill Fecteau said he was so proud of the Maryland Birdies that his group also would donate $500 to their charity.

"They've done a great job for their first invitational," he said. "They put a lot of planning into this and because of that we've enjoyed our time here in Maryland and we hope to come again."