On Friday, August 12, the Suffield Rotary Club will be honored to run the 25th Annual Glenn T. Packard Golf Tournament at the Oak Ridge Golf Club. At a time when many golf tournaments are facing diminished interest, would-be participants last year had to be turned away from our full tournament. Even Mark Sullivan, one of the tournament’s co-founders, wondered in the beginning if the tournament could be sustained beyond the first few years. That led to questions as to why this tournament could not only survive, but thrive for a quarter of a century. It clearly is a well run tournament, with fun golfing, good food and drink, door prizes and great raffle prizes. But the true explanation for its success and longevity goes beyond these things. Rather, it flows from reasons for the tournament’s creation and what it has come to represent to current and former town residents, some who knew Glenn and some who did not.
Glenn, the son of Warren and Flo Packard, grew up in Suffield where he was an outstanding three-sport (soccer, basketball, and baseball) athlete at Suffield High. He was an All-State player on the state championship soccer team in 1978. Moreover, by all accounts he was as great a person in high school as he was an athlete, displaying maturity and compassion for others well beyond that typically demonstrated at that age. After attending the University of Notre Dame, Glenn returned to his hometown and, with his wife Sandy, began to raise his new family, with daughters Marissa and Rachel and son Colin. True to his values, he was a volunteer coach for soccer and basketball and volunteered assisting inner-city children.
Glenn was a passionate golfer with an indomitably positive attitude. Sullivan, a good friend, recalls that he possessed a book of uplifting sayings, which he would periodically read aloud. Sullivan recalls that the last time they golfed together, Glenn, struggling with a tough round, pulled out the book and recited his saying for the day; “Be Positive, Have Fun, Smile a Lot.” These words remain the tournament’s motto a quarter of a century later.
In 1992, at the age of 31, Glenn was tragically killed in a fluke motor vehicle accident on I-91. Within weeks Mark and Karlene Sullivan decided that their friend’s life needed to be memorialized. After discussing it with Flo and Warren they decided to create a foundation in Glenn’s name and start a golf tournament to raise funds for it. The objective was, is, and has always been, “to enhance the quality of educational sports and recreational programs in the community” and “… to achieve these goals by employing the integrity, determination, enthusiasm and charitable spirit that Glenn demonstrated throughout his life”.
Mark and Karlene worked tirelessly to recruit players, procure prizes, and seek out sponsors to make the tournament a success. As the tournament grew, the Sullivans were assisted by Warren and Flo, family friends Jack and Mary Ann Muska and Jim Wood, a Rotarian then President of First National Bank. Ultimately, in addition to making the bank a major sponsor of the tournament, support that continues, Jim was instrumental in Suffield Rotary’s assuming responsibility for running the tournament, which requires significant volunteer hours.
Over $400,000 has been invested in our town from the proceeds of the tournament, consistent with its goals. This includes contributing to construction of the “Rotary Hut” at SHS, new Little League batting cages, Athletic Field Emergency Defibrillators; Baseball and Softball Dugouts at SHS; Babb’s Beach improvements; the PTO Playscape, a scoreboard for the SHS swim team, the Lacrosse Scoreboard, a track timing system at SHS and much more.
Some of the participants now registering have participated in all 24 prior tournaments, often traveling long distances to join their classmates and friends. In doing so they demonstrate that they still honor Glenn’s memory, and they show their respect and continuing fondness for Glenn’s family and hometown. However, these days they are joined by young players who never personally knew Glenn. These younger participants may not even know who Glenn was. They may or may not know that when growing up they played on soccer fields, sat in the park pavilion or dugouts, and played on basketball courts and playgrounds all supported by (and in some cases made possible by) the Packard Foundation. However, even if some don’t know any of these things, they all do know that they fondly recall growing up in Glenn’s hometown, a town made better by Glenn and the tournament’s contributions. This is all part of the legacy of Glenn Packard and largely explains why a tournament created in his memory continues to succeed 25 years later.