The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Celebrity Golf Classic tee’d off May 19-20 at TPC Sawgrass. The event, which is now in its 24th year, supports the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund and features dozens of sports and entertainment stars for a special round of golf. This year’s event managed to raise $540,000, which will be available to assist local families with the financial toll of battling a cancer diagnosis.
The event kicked off Sunday evening with the celebrity dinner, auction and opportunity to hear from individuals who have benefited from the foundation.
Tom Jackson, former NFL linebacker for the Denver Broncos, said that most of the attendees come back year after year partly because of the dedication of Tom Coughlin himself.
“The thing is that people have been so committed to this cause, I believe because of the man that's in charge of it,” Jackson said. “Him and his wife. The Coughlin’s have provided a stability for the Jay Fund Foundation that you seldom see, especially when you consider the fact that Tom has been somewhere else for part of his career. (He was) working out of New York and attached to the Giants but still extremely attached to Jacksonville and the Jay Fund Foundation, which he refused to let go of.”
When the Celebrity Golf Classic tradition begun in 1996, the foundation was still in its formative years. Initially, Tom Coughlin started the Jay Foundation to honor the life of Jay McGillis, a young player he met while coaching the Boston College’s team, who eventually lost a battle fighting leukemia. The first year of the Golf Classic that year brought in $51,600 of funding dedicated to families like McGillis’ who are struggling to make ends meet in chaos and tragedy of a cancer battle. Throughout the years since, many participants of the event have become all too aware of the struggle the diagnoses can bring.
“My own cancer battle began January 2016 and I can remember (being in the) MD Anderson in Houston Cancer Center waiting for another radiation treatment,” said Chris Mortensen, ESPN journalist. “All the sudden in comes a gurney and there is a man in jeans and work boots checking the gurney. I realized he was holding in his arms his three-year-old son. It affects me to even talk about it. He was there for his son taking the day off from work just to give his son a sense of security.”
Mortensen said that incidents like the one he witnessed bring out the “heart and humanity” in a person and it’s one reason he makes sure to show up for the annual event.
“Immediately, at that moment, I thought of the Jay Fund,” he said. “That’s what the Jay Fund is all about and that will stick with you forever.”