The Angel Open: A Promise Fulfilled

It’s been 15 years since Keith Hamilton made a promise to his 32-year-old sister Kelley to do his part in finding a cure for cancer. It had been less than a year since Kelley was diagnosed with a cancer that affected her brain and nervous system. Just days after making that promise, Keith had to say goodbye to his beloved sister. One year later, Bob Coonfare, Keith’s uncle, was making that same promise to his wife Judy during her breast cancer battle, which ultimately took her life as well. But even through the grief, Keith and Bob began “making good” on their promises to their loved ones.

As avid golfers, Keith and his family and friends had participated in many golf outings for various causes and decided to turn their passion for the game into an outlet to honor their angels, Kelley and Judy. 2001 brought the first annual Angel Open event, which raised $4,000 to benefit Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. The family was ecstatic with that amount and with the 100-plus golfers who came out to participate in the event. Keith shares that, “It’s a fun day of golf. I don’t care how much we raise because no matter the amount, it’s more than there was yesterday in support of cancer research.”

Year after year, the event grew to raising $8,000, $11,000, and even $14,000 per year. Sponsors who signed on for the inaugural event came back each year and helped raise awareness and funds. Then in 2008, a friend of the Hamiltons, Jan Wilson, lost her battle to cancer. Her husband, Larry, became engaged with the event and brought along support from the Liebert family. The following year, proceeds from the event jumped to $38,000. With more than 200 golfers now involved, the event moved from an afternoon golf outing to a double-shotgun format with a morning and afternoon start, and it relocated to the Oakhaven Golf Club after being hosted by Mill Creek Golf Club for the first 10 years. Jeff Block, another generous supporter of the OSUCCC – James, now brings his helicopter out each year for the exciting Ball Drop. Prizes at the event have also become a major pull for attendees and are highly anticipated each year. They include golf clubs, rounds of golf at local prestigious country clubs like Muirfield, Little Turtle, Rattlesnake and Double Eagle, diamond bracelets and gold necklaces, and even an Angel Open picnic table handcrafted for each tournament by Keith’s father. “There are people who come out who aren’t typically golfers, but they come out to show support because it’s a great day for a great cause,” says Keith.

2013 marked the 13th year since the Angel Open began in honor of Kelley, Judy and Jan. “They would be so proud of what all of us have accomplished in their honor,” Keith says. And he knows that the success of the event is largely due to the generous sponsors and friends, like his uncle Bob Coonfare, his business partner Jeff Vigar, and Larry Wilson and the Liebert family. “We all enjoy putting on this event because it’s fun, it honors the memories of those important to us, and it’s the right thing to do.”

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