WEST ORANGE, NJ — The William “Lefty” Boland Golf Tournament teed off for the 37th year on Monday, Oct. 2, at the Essex County Country Club in West Orange. Named for the longtime township recreation director, the tournament proceeds will go toward the Boland Grants, for which teachers in the West Orange School District can apply to receive money for new classroom technology.
The tournament began nearly four decades ago as an event for West Orange Township employees, but has expanded to include others in the years since. According to West Orange Recreation Director Bill Kehoe, who also serves as event chairman, approximately $5,000 are given away in grants annually as a result of the fundraiser, with 80 people playing golf.
“There’s a strong West Orange flavor to it,” Kehoe told the West Orange Chronicle in an interview at the event. “Most of these people have been around forever and all know each other. It’s the oldest tournament in West Orange.”
Kehoe took over organizing the tournament in 2011, when the committee decided to turn it into a fundraiser.
“It was originally run by veteran employees of the town, and a lot of them have retired now,” he said. “I wanted to do it if there was a philanthropic arm to it.”
The Boland Grants, which are given in conjunction with the West Orange Board of Education Department of Student Support Services, are awarded to teachers who work with special education students. With the grants, they can buy classroom technology like Smartboards, iPads and new computers. In 2015, $3,574 was given to nine different teachers at six schools in West Orange. The grants have increased every year since they were created in 2011, when the Boland Golf Committee awarded $2,893 to five teachers at five schools.
Last year’s fundraising proceeds were used to bring the I Can Bike program, which helps special needs children learn how to ride a two-wheeler bicycle, to West Orange. Kehoe said returning to the grants this year allows the fundraising to be spread around to different organizations.
“Whatever we make, we make,” he told the Chronicle, saying that there was no official fundraising goal. “Usually it’s around $5,000 and I’m sure we’ll make that today. With a program like (I Can Bike) you wait a couple of years to do it again. You don’t want to target the same audience every time.”
Also in attendance at the tournament was Bill Boland Jr., Lefty Boland’s son. He explained that his father earned his nickname from swinging his baseball bat left-handed.
“I’m a lefty too, but I didn’t get the nickname,” he joked in an interview with the Chronicle at the event.
“It just keeps going year after year,” Boland Jr. said about the golf tournament. “I’ve been playing in it since the ’70s and I think I’ve only missed one year. It’s always a big tournament in the town and it’s nice to see it going on for so many years like this.”
Lefty Boland was the director of recreation in West Orange beginning in the 1930s, and he worked in town until the 1970s. During his tenure in town, he built the recreation department into one of the best and biggest in the state. He died in 1979.
“I think this accomplishes what he wanted to do, which was get everybody together,” Boland Jr. said. “It makes a big difference, having that camaraderie. West Orange does that really well; it really makes a difference when you know people in town.”
Photos by Amanda Valentovic