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Golf tourney helps fund education

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Terry Barker touched a lot of people during his life. Today, 25 years after his death, he continues to affect lives in a positive manner.

The Terry F. Barker Memorial Golf Tournament celebrated its 25th anniversary on Monday at Northwood Country Club. A field of 120 golfers, as well as another 50 or so friends and family members, gathered for the annual event, which is more like a Southern Baptist homecoming than it is a golf tournament.

"This is a testimony to Terry's legacy," said Brad Mohler, a member of the organizing committee who brought his 10-year-old son Brandon. "It just shows what he meant to so many people that we could do this for 25 years."

Barker was a young man who grew up in Duluth and Lilburn and graduated from Berkmar High School. He wanted to become a sportswriter, even to the point where he was willing to give up a high-profile and lucrative position with Graphics Communications to join the Gwinnett Daily News as a high school sports writer.

Shortly after taking a job with the newspaper, he began to have stomach pains. Surgery revealed that he had stomach cancer, from which there is no cure. He got the news on a Friday and covered a high school football game that night. He died a few months later in November 1985 and a standing-room-only crowd attended his funeral.

But that wasn't the end of Terry Barker's impact. A group of his relatives and friends, behind the leadership of Brenda and Marc Cain, gathered together at Northwood Country Club and established a golf tournament in his honor. Barker was an avid golfer and a member at Northwood. No one knew how long it would last, but no one is ready to stop it either.

"We thought about it, but we decided that as long as people wanted to do it, we'd keep it going," said Steve Corley, one of the committee members.

It was determined that the proceeds from the tournament would go to fund a journalism scholarship at the University of Georgia, Barker's true love. A few years later the tournament was able to fund another scholarship at Georgia State University. The two fully funded, self-perpetuating scholarships have helped more than 45 students over the years. It's gotten to the point where additional smaller scholarships are offered, too.

Dawn Jewett, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1989-93, graduated from Georgia State thanks to a Barker Scholarship.

"I left work to go back to school, so it was huge for me," Jewatt said.

This year one of the recipients is Yasmin Yonis, a refugee from Somalia, who attends the University of Georgia.

But Monday was more than a golf tournament. It was a chance for old friends to visit with each other, enjoy some great food -- tournament committee member Chuck Underwood was cooking ribs next to the putting green and many of the aunts and cousins provided homemade cookies and banana pudding. Many of the same people are the ones who stayed by Barker's side and kept him company while he was dying. At least a half-dozen people were there who have played in the tournament for 25 years.

They all paused to remember the man whom the day is named after.

"This is great," said Nathan Franklin, a cousin of Terry Barker who is now principal at Loganville High. "This is something we look forward to every year."