By Bill Cantwell
---- — Though the nights are getting cooler, we’re still enjoying the warmth of late-summer days.
Christmas and Santa are still far from most people’s minds.
But not at the popular Garrison Golf Center on Hilldale Avenue. There, the Murphy family and Santa’s helpers are preparing for the 44th annual Haverhill Gazette Santa Fund Hole-in-One Contest.
The event raises money for local families who otherwise would go without gifts for their children during the holiday season.
This year’s contest will be Oct. 9 through 12. The contest will run from 4 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
In its previous 43 years, the contest has raised nearly $200,000 — more than $5,000 last year alone. The money goes to organizations such as the Salvation Army for distribution to needy families.
The contest raises money through participants paying $8 for a bucket of balls, which they drive toward a hole 125 yards away. Those landing closest to the pin win prizes donated by local businesses and individuals. The prizes include golf equipment and gift certificates for local restaurants.
Garrison Golf owners Ted and Mary Murphy and their family have been running the contest for decades. Their past calls for the public to join in the fun and help less fortunate people have brought a great response from local golfers.
“Every bit of money raised goes directly to The Gazette Santa Fund and is distributed directly to children and adults in need,” Mary Murphy said. “It’s our responsibility to help others who have less.
“This is a community event that people of all ages can participate in,’’ she said. “Even non-golfers participate and win prizes. A lot of people have been calling to ask when it’s going to be, and if we’re still going to do it. We always hold it after Columbus Day, which this year is Oct. 14, which is a week later this this year so we’re moving it up a little.”
The event has many volunteers, including members of the Haverhill High Golf Team, which is coached by the Murphys’ son Kevin Murphy; and members of the Key Clubs at Haverhill High and Whittier Regional High.
IF YOU GO
What: 44th annual Haverhill Gazette Santa Fund Hole-in-One Contest
Where: Garrison Golf Center, 654 Hilldale Ave.
When: Oct. 9, 10 and 11 from 4 to 8 p.m.; and Oct. 12 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To participate: A bucket of balls costs $8. Proceeds go to needy local families to help them during the holidays.
Prizes: Participants hitting balls closest to the pin win prizes, including golf equipment and gift certificates to restaurants.