For the past four years, Wendy Hogue and her University of Southern Mississippi softball players and coaches had driven by the establishment on West Fourth Street on their way to facility on North 25th Avenue.
Wednesday afternoon, those neighbors, supported by community members and business from around the Pine Belt, reached out with a huge helping hand to the Lady Eagles.
Hogue was presented a $9,225 check Wednesday from the inaugural 4th Street Classic golf tournament held on May 20 at Shadow Ridge Golf Club.
The donation to the USM Diamond Club is the largest earmarked for the softball program during Hogue’s tenure and will be used in the construction of an indoor hitting facility.
“We go past those doors every day when we pull up to practice and every day when we leave, but to get to know the men and women who are on the other side of those doors, and the sponsors coming out and helping us, it was big,” Hogue said Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s certainly the largest donation we’ve received in my four years with the program, so we’re excited about the partnership that we’ve had and will continue to build on for years to come.”
The golf tournament, which reflects the name of the rechristened “4th Street Bar”, has ties back to The End Zone events of the 1980s that donated proceeds to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. In 2009, local organizations were chosen by staff and customers to benefit from the proceeds.
Over the years, the tournament has grown, sporting full fields for the three-man scramble format and attracting major sponsors like Pine Belt Chevrolet, Play It Again Sports, Stokes Distributing, Glory Bound Gyro, AAA Ambulance and Curly and Lia Stafford.
The 2018 tournament was dedicated to Lia Stafford, a long-time supporter and volunteer at the tournaments, who passed away in 2016.
Hogue said a plaque with her picture will be placed at the new indoor hitting facility.
“Charity, and anything to do with children and young people, that was her life,” said Curly Stafford, who attended the check presentation with his grandson, Brady Stafford.”She worked with children when she was a teacher, and this was a cause she would have been behind 100 percent.”
4th Street Bar Co-owners Kevin Walters and Slade White said the proximity to the softball field and their establishment’s support of USM athletics made the decision on this year’s beneficiary a no-brainer.
“We opened up on Fourth Street (nearly seven) months ago, and they’re our neighbor here right across the street,” Walters said. “We just figured this was a good way to do something for our neighbors.”
Joey Stokes of Stokes Distributing said contributing to USM athletics made a lot of sense.
“We are supporters of USM athletics overall, and when Mr. (tournament director Chad) Boudreaux approached me about this being the charity for the event this year, it was just like, ‘Take it to the next level, support your hometown,’” Stokes said. “We’ll be looking forward to the new hitting facility, and, hopefully it will send these young ladies to the (Conference USA) championship again.”
The trio of Joseph Tatom, Corey Zimmerman and Trey Burge formed the winning team. The last-place team, which, by tradition, always is recognized, was the trio of Dan Olson, Tony Wright and Madison Lee.
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