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COBE Golf Tournament — A Quarter of a Century and Half a Million Dollars

It was late spring 2020 that Phil Bartle, COBE entrepreneurship alumnus, found himself staying at home as much as possible due to COVID-19. He had time to reflect and wondered if the COBE golf tournament was still happening. You see, Phil was one of the founding fathers of the COBE golf tournament back in 1996.

“I went to the internet and looked up the COBE Golf Tournament,” said Bartle. “WOW! It had grown and become very professional. Crane Creek?! A goal of raising $50K for scholarships?! WOW!”

That revelation prompted Phil to email Kirk Smith, COBE marketing professor. It was twenty-five years ago, that a group of alumni and COBE faculty put together the first COBE golf tournament. Kirk was chair of our Alumni Committee at the time and he and Phil led a small team of faculty and alumni who did most of the work for the first few tournaments.

“We held the tournament at Eagle Hills for the first few years,” said Smith. “Phil and I negotiated the deals with the Eagle Hills manager. I was ‘Good Cop’ and Phil was ‘Bad Cop’ since Phil was an ex-Boise State University football player and was playing rugby at the time. I remember one year he was fresh off a tournament and had a busted-up nose. That added to our negotiating power to the point where we were able to make a tiny bit of money from the very first year. We made something like 1500 bucks each year and immediately gave it away as a scholarship.”

“I remember Kirk and I worked so hard to make the 1st, 2nd and 3rd golf tournaments happen,” Bartle reflected. “One year after the golf tournament, Kirk tiredly said to me. ‘Phil, I hope 20 years from now all of this hard work will pay off.’ Well, I think our hard work back then has paid off!”

Mark Roby, photographer's daughter, Dave Bourff, Kirk Smith
Mark Roby (Boise State alum, 5x COBE golf sponsor), photographer’s daughter, Dave Bourff (COBE finance and MBA alum, COBE faculty), Kirk Smith (COBE faculty)

The alumni committee kept the golf tournament going for several years, then passed the torch to the COBE Advisory Council and the tournament became the college’s annual fundraising event. In 2007 with John Grizzaffi, (president of Stein Distributors/ Budweiser, retired), as the tournament committee chair, we held the tournament at Crane Creek Country Club for the first time. CCCC has graciously hosted the tournament since every year since.

“John and his team took our rickety little startup and made it into a fantastic event…far better than we could have imagined,” Smith said.

Generous sponsors have made our tournament successful and we have had many loyal supporters over the years – such as COBE alumnus Carey McNeal of Buffington Mohr McNeal, registered investment advisors (pictured below second from right in 1996).

Eagle Hills Course 1996 Stephanie Churchman, Kevin Churchman, Phil Bartle, Carey McNeal, Carla Luchi
Eagle Hills Course, 1996 from left: Stephanie Churchman (Boise State COBE alum), Kevin Churchman (Boise State alum), Phil Bartle, Carey McNeal (11x COBE golf sponsor), Carla Luchi.

“The events back in the early days were pretty modest (did not raise much) but were quite memorable” said McNeal. “Mulligans could be purchased in mass quantity and string could be purchased by the bolt to erase those last few inches (or feet) of putts.

The event has sure come a long way since then from a sponsorship and financial standpoint but the memories of the award BBQs with Phil Bartle and Pat Shannon introducing the group to a deserving (often single mom) scholarship winner are etched into my memory.”

Phil also remembers scholarship recipients.

“I remember one student who was going to drop out because she couldn’t make ends meet. We awarded her the money at the golf tournament, she had tears in her eyes when she accepted it. It was an amazing feeling to do something good for someone. She graduated from Boise State and is now a VP for a bank in Chicago!”

Thanks to many of you, this year’s tournament raised a record-breaking $58,000. In 25 years, the tournament has made well over $500,000. Proceeds from the tournaments still go towards scholarships today, helping many students reach their educational goals.