“I always say it’s my favorite day of the year, and I mean it.”
Simon Bennett, founder of 100 Holes of Golf at Wanakah Country Club, exemplifies just how impactful Team Roswell can be. Simon held the first 100 Holes of Golf fundraiser in 2016, tying his love for the sport with the cancer cause. The event has grown organically year over year and has become a summer staple for golfers here in Western New York.
In 100 Holes of Golf, participants start at around 5:20 a.m. and finish at approximately 9:00 p.m. For all 100 holes, they walk each step of the way.
The inspiration for the event was born back in 1995.
“When I was a teenager in the United Kingdom, I was 16, and a friend of mine and I did a similar thing at our golf club at home. I just remember having such a great day.”
So, two decades later, Simon wanted to experience another all-day golf event, now as an adult in Buffalo. That first year, there were three participants — Simon, Sean Lindstrom and Max Davis — all members of Wanakah Country Club. They decided to raise money while taking part in their sun-up to sun-down day on the course.
“With Roswell Park being such a big part of the Buffalo community and so many people we know who are either a patient there or know somebody who’s been a patient there, starting a golf fundraiser was a reasonably easy choice to make.”
In 2016, 100 Holes of Golf raised around $7,500. The fundraising doubled in 2017, then again in 2018. By 2019, Simon and his team inquired about designating funds to one particular initiative at Roswell Park —the Courage of Carly Fund. That year, they raised just shy of $50,000, which covered the cost of the Courage of Carly holiday party.
“We thought with this amount of money, we can make a very specific difference. Even if it’s for two or three hours for a party or to take kids to a Sabres game or to whatever it is, you know that you’re making somebody have some enjoyment who’s going through a horrible time,” said Simon. “We’ve gotten to know Mr. and Mrs. Collard, Carly’s parents. We loved meeting them and the way they speak about not only their daughter, but the things that Courage of Carly has done over the last 20 years since Carly passed.”
Expanding Their Impact
In 2020, tragedy struck among the Wanakah Country Club Community. Luca Calanni, the son of one of the members, passed away unexpectedly due to complications of the flu. Luca was only 11 years old. Not long after, his family created a foundation in his name, Live Like Luca. His father, Roger “Bodge” Calanni, was planning on participating in 100 Holes of Golf that year, so Simon and his team decided to add Live Like Luca as a beneficiary of the funds raised.
“The two foundations go nicely hand-in-hand because they’re both raising money for children,” said Simon.
By 2023, 100 Holes of Golf had grown into a fundraising powerhouse, collecting nearly $190,000 that year alone. Participants included 28 golfers and three relay teams.
Simon stressed making this event possible is truly a team effort.
“This is such an event where everybody just wants everybody to play well and everybody to have a good time. It’s not just the 28 golfers; it’s the caddies, the people who provide food to us throughout the day, the people who run the raffle and the auction in the evening. It’s people dancing and setting up bounce houses for members’ children, plus the guests that we have from Courage of Carly.”
Personal Tie to the Cause
For several years, Simon has been an advocate for Roswell Park, raising funds to help give children with cancer the fighting chance they deserve. However, in 2023, he experienced Roswell Park in a different way — this time, as a patient. His cancer was caught through a colonoscopy in early March.
“Luckily, I didn’t really need much treatment other than a little bit of surgery. But it’s not only doing the treatment itself. It’s the way Roswell Park eased my worries and my family’s worries as quickly as possible.”
By April, he was already cancer-free. His surgery and recovery served as a reminder of how important programs like Courage of Carly are for children diagnosed with cancer.
Want to start a Team Roswell event? Here’s Simon’s Advice.
“Make sure the thing that you’re doing, your event, is something you really enjoy doing and really want to do anyway.”
He says on top of knowing the incredible impact they’re making, he genuinely looks forward to 100 Holes of Golf year-round. So, while putting on this event takes a lot of work, the excitement and the cause keep him motivated.
“Not only are we doing a really great thing here for two great foundations, but it’s such a fun day.”
So, what’s next for 100 Holes of Golf? Simon wants to keep the event going for many years to come.
“It’s something that certainly I’m very proud of and everybody who does it is very proud of,” said Simon. “At some point, we’ll tick past the million-dollar mark. That will be a pretty nice milestone when that happens.”