JOLIET – Bob Surinak is a good example of why the annual Joliet Police vs. Joliet Fire Ryder Cup golf challenge for charity is a winner.
Surinak got a call just before the event began Wednesday. The Fire had some injuries in its anticipated lineup. Surinak, retired for eight years after 31-plus years as a fireman, normally plays exhibition matches with the retired group.
This year, however, the competition was expanded from 16 golfers per team to 22. He was needed in the regular lineup and responded.
"He is here for all the right reasons," said Rick Raasch, co-captain of the Police team who organized the event with the Fire's John Stachelski. "He stepped up as a retiree when they had some injuries. He's a quality guy."
And, he went 3-0 in his matches Wednesday and Thursday at Inwood Golf Course. It all meant adding his name to the Most Valuable Player trophy.
"That's probably the best three rounds of golf in my life," Surinak said. "I'm shocked to win this award. I know all these guys. It hits home."
The Fire, which has lost only once in the 11 years of the event, prevailed, 13-9, in Thursday's competitive singles matches and won, 25-14, overall.
Of course, the big winners are the charities. The Fire played for the Illinois Youth Burn Camp and the Police played for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The participants not only pay for their greens fees and refreshments, they sell raffles tickets and donate to the charities on the first tee.
"We raised almost $1,500 on the tee box," Raasch noted. "Overall we're on a pace to raise more than $10,000 this year."
If that happens, the total raised for charity in 11 years will top the $100,000 mark.
"At first we didn't do much with raffles and that sort of thing," said the Fire's Terry Mangun, who along with Raasch is largely responsible for the event from the beginning. "The last 5 to 8 years, we have really stepped it up. And everything we take in goes directly to charity."
The singles winners for the Fire were Mike Bessette, Chuck Skeldon, Leon Trimmer, Mangun, Fred Offerman, Brad North, Dave Chizmark, Joe Krupa, Scott Winkles, Paul Purcell, Dan Smith, Doug Frederick and Surinak.
Police winners included Mike Trafton, Rick Goepper, Jim Klancher, Scott Nicodemus, Mark Reid, Ryan Smith, Brian Prochaska, Brent Pocewicz, Doug Palmer and Eric Moyes.
"We ended up this year with a lot of close matches," said Stachelski, noting that the handicap system introduced last year is working. "That makes it fun for everybody.
"The 22 singles matches are the most ever. Now with the handicap, everyone can play and that's nice."
So is the camaraderie the event promotes.
"In a lot of cities, the police and firemen don't get along that well," Mangun said. "But we've had a lot of fun doing this. Guys who you may or may not know when you see them on the street, you get to know better out here."
"I know any time I lose a singles match, I request to play that guy the next year, and my request is granted," Offerman said. "You build a nice rivalry with guys on the other side, and when you make a lot of money for charity, it's all good."
Raasch said players had to dig a little deeper into their pockets to play this year, yet they sold as many raffle tickets and donated as much themselves as ever before.
"That's a true testament of what these guys are all about," he said.
"Sure, there's a lot of jousting in a competition between the Fire and Police. But they are all true city employees. They care about their community. The way they care doesn't always show in their day-to-day jobs, especially with the police, but in this you get to see it."
Raasch said the young players on both sides just starting out in their jobs "are starting to realize that giving back is what you need to do."
The retirees are helping drive home the point.
"I'll bet if you talk to every retiree, it's not the job they miss as much as it's the camaraderie," Polce team co-captain Rick Chizmark said. "It's nice when an event like this can bring everyone back."