BUTTE — When some 130 golfers tee off at the Butte Country Club on Friday, it will be the latest chapter of something good transpiring from an unthinkable tragedy.
The eighth annual Mariah’s Challenge Golf Tournament is one of the largest annual fundraisers for the Mariah Daye McCarthy Scholarship Foundation, named after the 14-year-old Butte girl who was killed by an underage drunk driver on Oct. 28, 2007.
The scholarship, aimed at preventing drunk driving and underage drinking, has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in academic scholarships to over 250 students in more than 30 communities who take the pledge to abstain from alcohol before they are of legal age and exemplify outstanding character.
“It’s very humbling and I’m very thankful,” said Leo McCarthy, Mariah’s father and the founder of Mariah’s Challenge, of the way that the scholarship foundation has excelled and been embraced by the community. “Butte is an amazing town with a lot of heart and soul.”
The idea for a golf tournament originated after the scholarship’s previous big annual event fundraiser — a full-contact football game between Butte-Silver Bow police officers and prerelease inmates — resulted in too many injuries.
Travis Hettick, an old friend of McCarthy’s who had been the football game’s organizer, sought another, less raucous way to gather people for an annual tournament. Golf fit the bill.
“A little less impact,” McCarthy mused.
Hettick said that after putting the event together for the first time, the process each succeeding year has been fairly smooth and straightforward as the community has consistently rallied for the event.
“Really after the first year it carried over,” said Hettick, a former Montana Tech linebacker who is now the administrator for Butte’s Community Counseling and Correctional Services. “Butte people are awesome. The community has been spectacular and the businesses are fabulous.”
The bulk of the funds generated from the tournament, which usually totals between $12,000-$13,000, comes from sponsorships from local businesses that Hettick initiates when he sends out about 300 letters each year. From there, businesses can choose to either send in donations or sponsor a hole.
Hettick stressed that it’s been the persistent and generous support of local businesses that have allowed the golf tournament to succeed.
“If we didn’t have that support, this wouldn’t take place,” he said.
In addition to the tournament, there will also be a raffle and a chip shot challenge. A dinner for the golfers will be held at the country club following the tournament.
A number of local celebrities will be participating, including NFL journeyman Colt Anderson, Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill and longtime Montana Tech football coach Bob Green.
Putting together the event each year is a large undertaking, but Hettick said it’s a small way to give something back to McCarthy, who has been a close friend and supporter of Hettick’s since his days on the gridiron with Tech.
“It’s for my friend (Leo),” Hettick said. “He supported me through my college years and he’s given a lot to this community.”
Mariah’s Challenge is many things. It’s a grassroots crusade against the life-imperiling dangers of underage drinking and drunk driving. It’s a tribute to a beloved young woman who was a light to those around her and whose promising life was senselessly cut short.
And it’s a celebration of life.
In other words, Friday's upcoming tournament is about much more than golf.
"That's why I do this," Hettick said.