Gwinnett football coaches bond at annual golf tourney

SNELLVILLE — Todd Wofford had one big reason to like Monday's Gwinnett Football Fellowship Golf Tournament — the 50-inch LED TV he won in a raffle.

The prize was big enough that the Central Gwinnett head coach needed help getting it to his car, but it was simply the capper of a fun day of golf and fellowship among Gwinnett's high school football coaches at Summit Chase Country Club.

Every Gwinnett football program brings a group, typically the head coach and some assistants, for the annual tourney sponsored by Sports Medicine South, a Gwinnett-based orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine center.

Wofford's foursome didn't fare well in scoring with a 70 that tied for last place, which earned a prize that included lessons, but the group still enjoyed the day.

"It's cool every year to come out and play with all these guys," Wofford said. "Gwinnett's different from a lot of places where we get chances like this to socialize in a non-competitive way, get to know each other. Getting close to the season, this is maybe the last time we get to do this until the all-star game (at the end of the season). It's fun. It's also a great chance to bond with your own coaches outside of the school setting."

Gwinnett Medical Center's team won the tournament with a 57, two shots ahead of runner-up Georgia Gwinnett College. Norcross and Wesleyan shared third place overall and first among high school teams with a 61.

The event was less about competition, though, and more about fellowship, as its title suggests. Players and coaches from various teams chatted with each other, a setting provided by businesses who help out with donations of food and sponsorship money.

The tourney supports the Linda Jones Memorial Scholarship, which honors the longtime Brookwood supporter who passed away last year. Every Gwinnett school will have one senior earn the scholarship later this year when it's presented at the Touchdown Club of Gwinnett's all-star game.

"There are two reasons I do this," said Sports Medicine South owner and orthopaedic surgeon Gary Levengood. "One, I think the coaches, especially assistant coaches, don't get enough recognition. They work so hard during the year. It's a great opportunity for fellowship and giving them an opportunity to have a good time.

"The other part is the scholarship aspect of it, being able to get the people to come out and donate money, goods and time, so at the end of the day we can give back money to the kids for scholarships."

Levengood also made another announcement Monday about a deal SMS worked out with Bledsoe Brace Systems, which will provide 10 sets of knee braces to every Gwinnett high school football program this season free of charge.

The new Bledsoe NZONE knee braces, to be used for interior linemen, are part of a study this season on the efficiency of the knee brace for linemen.

"I think most schools are excited about doing it. Given the rash of knee injuries we had last year, it's a no-brainer. If there's anything we can do to decrease injuries for these kids, make it safer, that's great.

"The other thing nice about today is getting Marla Shapiro in front of everybody to talk about our concussion institute because that's going to be huge this year."

Shapiro is the neuropsychologist for Gwinnett Medical Center's new groundbreaking Concussion Institute, which will help local athletes and coaches with a state-of-the-art facility. It is of particular importance this year since Georgia passed a Return to Play Act earlier this year that requires public and private schools to provide information to parents on concussions and establish certain policies for dealing with student head injuries.