MANSFIELD, TX — Frank and Cathy Luna moved here from Washington State 10 years ago. Both were managers extraordinaire, used to collaborating on everything at work, home, and in their community. Once settled in Mansfield, they needed a way to connect with their new community. They found Walnut Creek Country Club four years ago and have done much more than golf and make friends. For the past four years they have served on the committee for the Battle of the Nines, an event hosted annually by the club to give proceeds back to the community throughout the year. “Everybody gets in a bind once in a while in life. If we can help through Battle of the Nines, that’s what we’re here for,” Frank said.
This year as co-chairs, Frank and Cathy are hopeful that Battle of the Nines will bring in more money than ever before to help those in need. Relying on the abilities and knowledge of the Battle of the Nines committee, Frank and Cathy know they will achieve their goal. “We have phenomenal people backing us, and we know how good they are. They know what they need to do and they do it great,” Cathy said.
“It’s so gratifying to see what all these great people, who have between four and 10 years experience, do to pull the event off,” Frank said. “Cathy and I work great together, but could never do it by ourselves.” Every year since the Battle of the Nines team began helping local charities, they have had to say “no” to those from outside our city and each year that has been hard for Frank. “You know that other people need it, but we want to make sure we help those in Mansfield.”
The helping began with a friendly rivalry. In 1985, Walnut Creek Country Club had only two nine-hole courses, the Willow and Pecan. Two club members began a rivalry over which course and golfers were truly the best. Tom Rogala believed that the Pecan far exceeded Mike Tierney’s Willow and their friendly rivalry became the basis of the first Battle of the Nines tournament. Triumph over the other would give the winner satisfaction that they were ‘superior,’ but both felt like their friendly rivalry could be used for the greater good of the community. Thus, it became an annual charity event that has helped raise over $360,000 in the past 25 tournaments. After Walnut Creek Country Club opened the Oak course in 1992, it was added to the tournament, as well. The tournament is hosted in the fall and will be held on September 30 and October 1 this year.
All of the proceeds from the event are given back to the Mansfield community. Each year they donate to the Mansfield Independent School District (MISD) and the Mansfield Police and Fire Departments. Funds go toward programs, such as “Every 15 Minutes,” a DWI (driving while intoxicated) education program that teaches juniors and seniors at Mansfield high schools what the consequences could be should they choose to drink and drive. Money given to the police department is used.
to support ride-a-longs, in which police officers take students out on patrol during the weekend to show them the job they do and the consequences of crime.
The committee also gives a portion of their funds to overlooked individuals and smaller organizations that have fallen through the cracks and are unable to receive federal or state financial assistance. In the past they have been able to help car accident victims, families devastated by fires, terminally ill patients with insurmountable medical expenses and many other similar cases of hardships. Recently, they were able to provide air conditioning to a Mansfield church and a refrigerator for the local food bank. Many of the individuals and families have been brought to their attention by members of the club. They have found others through partnering with MISD counselors. “Our contributions are not a ‘fix all’ to most of the problems these people are facing,” Frank said. “We hope it’s enough to get them over the rough hump and give them hope. And the more support we have, the more good we can do for our community.”
The monies raised to help the community come from the generosity of Walnut Creek Country Club, local businesses, club members and their guests. “This event means a lot to so many of the club members,” Cathy added. “We all have fun with the rivalry but, in the end it’s how much we help the community.”
This year, over 30 committee members are working to make the 26th Battle of the Nines the most successful to date. Two hundred thirty-six golfers are needed to fill both courses, a feat which hasn’t been done in the past few years with the down economy. This year they hope to fill the event to capacity and see how many lives they can help with the proceeds. “A lot of people put in many hours to make this tournament possible,” Cathy said. “It takes us most of the year to pull this off. We take a month or two off after each tournament and then turn around and begin planning for the next. ”
When Battle of the Nines cleans up the course and closes the books, Frank and Cathy head out on a cruise. “We get away from everything and clear our minds,” Frank said. That is a habit the couple has been in since they married. The two met at work in Seattle. “We’d drive to work in the morning, working in the same building, and on the way home we had that time on the freeway to decompress the day. When we got home, the evening was just for us!”
“From that point on, it was just a collaboration of everything we wanted to do — whether it was coaching baseball teams, little league, soccer teams, or volunteering for Habitat for Humanity or organizing banquets,” Cathy said. “The funny part is that even on the cruise after Battle of the Nines, Frank and I will sit down to talk about what went well, what went bad, what needs to change to make next year’s event more successful,” Cathy said. “The better the event, the more money you can give to people in need. That’s what it’s about so we can help more businesses or individuals that are in need.”
Many of the community’s overlooked citizens, struggling to face a financial burden, have been aided by funds raised from the Battle of the Nines. Tournament participants trash talk and battle for ultimate bragging rights, but at the end of the day they are there to support their community and the unavoidable trials that it faces. Frank and Cathy joined the club to make friends, but have accomplished much more than that. They have joined a community and are dedicated to helping their fellow citizens.
Written by Sydni Thomas.