Tag Archives: 17th hole Stadium at Sawgrass

Where does a dream come from?

Where does a dream come from?

When a dream becomes a reality it is a humbling experience. Today I feel as if I am floating on a cloud of gratitude. For a year and a half we have built a pyramid stone by stone beginning with a meeting of minds to discuss an idea. We lured them to our home with a promise of pizzas from the wood burning oven, craft beer on draft and plenty of cabernet to get the conversations going. What resulted was far more than we could have ever imagined.

Tommy had always wanted to throw a golf tournament on the golf course that we have viewed every morning for over twenty four years and one of the most famous in professional golf, the TPC Stadium course at Sawgrass. With each think tank meeting a team was forged. Ideas came from everyone, contacts were contacted and the event began to take form. We set up a meeting with the appropriate TPC staff and received their blessing. We asked our long time friend if he would want to join us once again. He gave a positive response with no hesitation. Our legal expert and a JTTF board member set out to form the Funk-Zitiello Foundation a new non profit, our JTTF marketing team began to work on the creative for the event. A web site was developed and social media began to promulgate. A team of over 80 volunteers was assembled. We were on our way to organizing a first class event at a first class venue.

However, before I go any further there is an element of the process that must be revealed.

Where does a dream begin? How is it born and how does it grow like ripples on the water? This dream came from a place deep within Tommy and I. We believe that God tugged gently at our hearts. We know He is the reason for our team, for our creative and crazy plans and for success beyond our wildest imagination. But, then it became not just our dream, it became the quest for others who heard about it. We believe it was all God’s plan.

When we look back over time we can see His work behind the scenes. Not just the past few years, but for our entire lives. Why did we move to this place we call heaven on earth all those many years ago? Why was it the next home being built belonged to a striving pro golfer? Was all of this by chance? How about that hard working golfer pulling off a win at potentially the fifth major golf tournament on the PGA Tour calendar and it happened just months after a young high school senior suffered a near fatal spinal cord injury on the football field. How did he meet JT Townsend? How did Fred and Sharon Funk and his band of golf fans, the Funk’s Punks join together to rally a community to build that young man a home so his family could live under one roof? How did I survive a cancer that is statistically a death sentence within one year? You just can’t make this stuff up. God was and is always in control. And, His plans are perfect.

It was not an easy task putting this event together. It took a team and it took a lot of work and worry and so many conversations I can’t begin to count them. But, in another way it was simple really. All we had to do was tell our story. Those who have been touched by something so raw and devastating were caught hook, line and sinker, many had been touched by pancreas cancer or had seen the work of JT Townsend and his foundation helping others who found themselves in the same position as he was, disabled and with no hope of getting the things they needed.

When we began we had a budget that I felt was aggressive and maybe unattainable. But, I knew we had to make everyone on our team understand what we wanted to achieve. Just a few weeks before the event we were not even close to our number and I heard discouragement in Tommy’s voice. I assured him, this was not OUR event, the perfect people would be there and the perfect number would be achieved. We just needed to have faith and keep putting one foot in front of another. And we did by achieving not only that lofty budget, but going over it by almost twenty percent.

We were also concerned about holding the event during the rainy season in North Florida. The showers had appeared each day for a month, a nice drenching rain to water the flowers and keep the hot days humid and sustain our natural beauty. But, rain could potentially shut down an outdoor event. Again, I turned to my faith and declared the day would be perfect because this is His event not ours. And, it was a perfect morning with not a cloud in the sky as the JT Townsend Gospel Choir sang praises on the hill overlooking the golfers as they warmed up on the driving range.

The JT Townsend Memorial Gospel Choir

But, there was one more God wink that probably came from our beloved JT at near conclusion of the golf tournament. Fred Funk, who had never hit a hole-in-one on TPC Stadium Course’s most photographed and feared hole #17 did just that. Not only did he do it that day, he did it right when Tommy, his son and his father and his best friend were on the tee, a group of diehard golf fans who as Funk’s Punks had followed Fred for twenty five years of his career. Everyone could hear the cheers throughout the course and knew something wonderful had happened. And it did.

What has been confirmed to me is that when God is involved we just need to listen for his next instruction. We need to place our complete faith in Him and allow each piece to fall into place. He will never disappoint.

What is your dream waiting to come true? Do you possess the faith you need to make it a reality?

The crowd erupts as Fred hits a hole in one

“With God all things are possible” Mark 10:27

Judi Zitiello, Sunshine, Carmen Townsend, Tommy Zitiello, Precious Townsend

The sponsors who made this event possible. Thank you all

Putt N Crawl 2011

Putt N Crawl 2011

JT Townsend surrounded by family and friends.

This past Saturday, thanks in part to Bonnie Upright of Upright PR and Karen Estella Smith, our Executive Director, the newly formed JT Townsend Foundation was selected as a participating charity in the 7th Annual Putt N Crawl event at Jacksonville Beach. The event is basically a group of beach bars that host a golf hole. Participants purchase a ticket with some of the proceeds going to their favorite charity. They are given a wrist band at check-in, along with a golf score card with a map of the course on the back. They are given a discount on drinks at the participating bars and must mark their score cards to share in the competition “after party” at the designated bar. We were assigned hole number 12 at Bukkets Baha Beach Bar.

The golf holes and the attire of the participants is creative and also a part of the competition with monetary prizes awarded to the best. The web site posted pictures from previous years, and when I realized this was truly a competition, I called on my friend Matt Borocz who just happens to be the National Director of Golf for TPC courses to see if he had a putting green or anything I could borrow. This would be our starting point. We had to come up with something challenging and creative.

That is when this project started growing legs! Karen and I were wracking our brains thinking of how we could design the hole to be fun and creative. Not being handy with hammer and nails or pieces of wood, we were at a large loss for how to even begin. Well, Matt came to the rescue BIG TIME. He visited the web site and saw the holes from years past. It was time to call in the big guns. He called in three guys who volunteer at The Players every year. They are the guys who construct anything that is needed for the Tours own nationally telecast and surely to be designated the fifth “major” tournament. Uncle Buzz, Phil and John were called into a meeting and they were given the challenge. All I had to do was provide the Bud and the materials, they would do the rest.

Uncle Buzz and his team! Phil, John, Ron and Judi Z


The design could be only one thing if any volunteer from The Players was involved. It had to be a replica of the famed 17th hole of the Stadium Course at Sawgrass, surrounded by water, a Sunday pin placement,a sand trap and fish and alligators.

Uncle Buzz’s team really went all out. When Matt told them a competition was involved, they stepped it up even further. We had about a week to complete the task. They spent hours over breakfast at The Beach Hut discussing how they would make it all come together. Then hours in the “barn” at TPC constructing. Even Uncle Ernie and Eli were involved. And come together it did! Uncle Buzz asked me to join the team. My job was decoration. Well of course it was!

Finally, the day arrived. Tom and I met Team Buzz at Beach Hut at 7:30AM for breakfast. We made our plans and set off in different directions, but the goal was to have the hole completed by 12:00 noon. We accomplished our goal with time to spare and the GM at Bukkets, Ken, was extremely accommodating and pleased that he was the lucky guy to host JTTF.

Last years attendance for the Putt N Crawl was around 4000 people. The Buzz was promoting the event and they expected this years attendance to reach as high as 6500 crawlers! Karen had sent out several requests for volunteers to assist the day of and I had set up an event on Facebook so we could have all of our friends attend and hopefully invite even more supporters for JT’s new foundation. Social media is such an amazingly great tool to get word out immediately and a firm yes no or maybe from all invitees. Word was spreading fast and it looked like we were going to have a successful turnout.

That is one crazy golf outfit complete with a Budwiser beer box hat!

It truly was not about how much money we would earn that day. It was more about getting the foundation out there in front of the people. Media began to arrive around 2PM when volunteers were in place and JT and his family had arrived. This was exactly what we had prayed for. And then it began……

Crawlers began to arrive and their comments were very positive about our hole. The costumes were really fun and you could tell the ones who were in it to win it. One group with matching tee shirts and every one dressed in kilts visited our hole early.

One beautiful girl in their party was in a motorized wheel chair and had a Happy Birthday Banner draped around her. As I explained about the JTTF she listened intently. She wanted to hear more and I told her to speak to our President, JT Townsend. The group putted through and she pulled her chair right up next to JT and they talked for a long while. Then a miracle happened. God surly sent those kilted crawlers to our hole. The beautiful lady in the wheelchair told me she wanted to donate a motorized wheelchair she had no use for to the foundation so we could find someone who could not afford one. This lady had been an anesthesiologist at Flagler Hospital and four years ago was diagnosed with MS. She loved the mission of the foundation and wanted to join us in this way. I felt as if we had accomplished far more than we had ever dreamed the day would bring.
Seriously, God listens to our prayers. He knows the desires of our hearts and often times He answers us in bigger ways then we could ever imagine. God answered our prayers for a successful event. Beyond the donation of the wheelchair or the money we took in , or anything else, every person who was involved will be forever changed because they were a part of a wonderful experience. Good caring generous people like Stacey at Home Depot who made it possible for us to borrow the plants we set around the hole. And Lisa, Liza, Kelly and Scott, my dear friends who helped us all day long. My family, Tom, Lindsay, Louis, Stephanie and John all rallied around JT that day. Oh, and of course Matt and Team Buzz.

Best of all we did win the hole competition for the 7th Annual Putt N Crawl and a $300 check to the Foundation. Thank you everyone who came out and supported us last Saturday! You are the BEST!