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Tony Maroulis: A true business-to-business event

This year, the Chamber celebrates its 10th golf tournament. Presented by the Hampshire Hospitality Group, 128 golfers will be ready to tee off at Hickory Ridge Golf Club on July 15. Responsibility for the success of the tournament is due in large part to the vision, leadership and commitment of its tournament chair, Jim Conlon.

I caught up with the president of Amherst’s JF Conlon and Associates a few days before the Independence Day break. I wanted to get his take on why this event has been so successful.

“Years ago, the Chamber was looking for something meaningful to replace its auction, which had been its big fundraiser,” he recalled. “We had a committee of John Coull and Joan Temkin from the Chamber, and Larry Archey from the board. Joan says that I said, ‘How about a golf tournament?’” The rest is history.

Jim leads a committee of 12 volunteers, who meet regularly for six months — “a labor of love” — hashing over all aspects of the tournament. Many committee members have participated from year one, leading to lasting friendships and business relationships. From bringing in sponsors and picking out auction items to the placement of tee box signs, there is nothing the committee doesn’t consider, and each year, its members try to make it an even better golfing experience. “It’s the best deal in town,” Conlon says. “For $125, a golfer gets lunch, carts, a reception, a raffle, dinner and a meaningful gift.”

“The centerpiece of the event is our support for the business program at the Amherst Pelham Regional High School,” he continued. “Since 2007, we have provided two scholarships to seniors who will study a business-related major at UMass. Additionally, we have provided direct support to the business program.”

Over the past several years, the Chamber has raised money for the business program through a raffle (contact the Chamber for details!). This year’s winner gets two great field-level tickets to the Pats vs. the Dolphins on Oct. 27.

Jim was instrumental in signing Cooley Dickinson Hospital on as the scholarship sponsor. The arrangement helped Cooley grow its profile on Amherst’s side of the Connecticut River, but it has also led to lasting relationships between the hospital and the school’s business program, independent of the tournament. Over the past few years, the business program has raised money for Cooley’s Cancer Care Program.

To Jim Conlon, “The tournament complements the Chamber’s mission. The tournament is a true business-to-business event. It’s a popular way to be with clients, patrons and friends.” As avid a golfer as he is, Conlon continues to lead the tournament committee because he believes in the mission of local Chambers of Commerce. Support for that mission deserves recognition. “For some reason, we’ve tried to hide the financial significance of this event. We don’t have to. We need to support the Chamber’s efforts.”

I agreed with him here. “Despite a Chamber’s success, the membership dues statement is often the heaviest piece of paper in any pile, often sinking to the bottom the moment it’s opened,” I remarked, stealing that line from a fellow Chamber exec.

But that laugh line is the reason that the $160,000 raised over the past 10 years has been so critical.

Local Chamber revenues are usually made up of a standard salad mix, in which memberships, events and publications bring in the support so that the organization can function in its role to offer marketing, networking events, services and support for its member businesses. That money has allowed the Chamber to expand its programming, and to offer the schools over $30,000 in support since the tournament began.

The Chamber owes Jim Conlon much gratitude for his tireless efforts over the past 10 years. Under his leadership, I’m quite confident the tournament will easily have 10 more great years to come. And I look forward to it.

Tony Maroulis is the executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce.

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