By Scott Leslie
For over a quarter century now, the Wise Guys have been doing their part for the Niagara community with their Wise Guys Charity Golf Tournament. Now the girls are getting in the swing of things too – with their own Wise Girls Tee Party.
“Our tee party has become so popular,” says Wise Girls Chair Chris Bonelli. “We have sponsors from all parts of the region now like Grimsby, Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake. We’re pulling in a lot of new people that weren’t even aware of Wise Guys.”
A quick history lesson is in order. Back in 1989, local businessman Doug Smith and his father Chuck volunteered to raise money to build a new YMCA facility in St. Catharines. With the help of Niagara business owners, they ended up hosting a series of comedy nights, started a celebrity golf tournament, and raised nearly $125,000 for the new YMCA. When the
“Y” project wrapped up, Doug and his father decided to establish the “Wise Guys Charity Fund.” The charity took its name from YMCA CEO Franco Savoia who had begun referring to them as “the Y’s Guys.”
Since 1991, the Wise Guys Charity Fund has been holding a week of fundraising events every summer, raising funds for a variety of area charities. In 2014, however, three women approached Doug Smith, wondering how they could get more women involved with the charity. A new “Wise Girls” event seemed in order and Doug invited his wife Chris to talk things over with them. According to Chris, she didn’t need much convincing at their initial meeting.
“It was love at first sight for me,” she explains. “Everyone was so creative and motivated. I really got excited about the idea.”
A committee was quickly formed and the women decided to hold a second golf tournament after toying with several concepts. Initially, the group had some reservations there wouldn’t be enough women golfers. They needn’t have worried. When the tallies were all counted up, the women had raised $35,000 at their inaugural event and were only two foursomes away from a sell out.
“We’ve been received so well,” Chris says. “We’re the only all-women golf tournament in the area – and there are a lot more women business professionals out there than there used to be.”
At the Wise Girls Tee Party, golfers have the opportunity to enjoy a great time on the links with plenty of giveaways, not to mention lunch and dinner, refreshments and several exciting activities – all in the name of charity.
Chris says the Wise Girls are pulling in a whole new crowd these days including a generation of young women in their 20s and 30s. They’ve also expanded far beyond the St. Catharines business community that’s been supporting the Wise Guys for 27 years now.
With their growing success, the Wise Girls moved their tournament from the Rockway Glen Golf Course to the St. Catharines Golf & Country Club two years ago. The Wise Girls Tee Party now accepts a maximum of 144 golfers – two groups of four on every hole – with all monies raised going towards the Wise Guys Charity Fund.
To date, the Wise Girls have raised over $150,000 for Niagara charities with their tournament. But they can’t do it alone. The lifeblood of the tee party is the Wise Girls team which includes a main committee of 20 people, several subcommittees, and a core of countless volunteers.
Chris says everyone’s welcome to help out and can sit on the committee of their choice. Age is never a factor. Right now, they have volunteers in their teens and right up to their 70s.
“We’re all young at heart,” Chris explains. “We listen to all opinions and are always looking for fresh ideas. There’s something for everyone.” And golfers don’t have to worry about having a knack for the sport. In the past three years, the Wise Girls have welcomed participants at every skill level – from cautious newbies to wily professionals – and they’re looking forward to inviting many more.
“There’s no stress involved,” Chris says. “Anybody can join us and have a good time.”
The fourth Wise Girls Tee Party is taking place on Monday, August 13, 2018 at the St. Catharines
Golf & Country Club on 70 Westchester Avenue. To register, email Chris Bonelli at
email@example.com or go to wiseguyscharity.com