Kelly Gibson receives honor, continues to give back to community

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Kelly and Elizabeth GibsonDuring The Mackel Louisiana PGA-Mississippi PGA Cup Matches banquet held in New Orleans, PGA Tour veteran Kelly Gibson received the prestigious Barbato-Thomas Award given to an individual who has given unselfishly for the good of the game and support of the PGA Golf Professional.

The award is named in honor of two PGA Professionals who are a part of the historic fabric of golf in Louisiana. Mike Barbato was the long-time PGA Professional at Timberlane Country Club in New Orleans and coached LSU to a national championship. Mr. Barbato’s impact on golf will last forever.

Henry Thomas was the legendary PGA Professional at City Park in New Orleans. Mr. Thomas will never be forgotten by the many people he introduced to golf along with being a founder of our local PGA Tour Event, the New Orleans Open. Past recipients from New Orleans include Archie Manning, Mike Rodrigue, Paul Buckley, Tommy Wulf and a trio of PGA members, Frank Mackel, Freddie Haas and James Leitz.

Kelly came from the greatest era of junior golf in New Orleans. Kelly, recently named to the De La Salle High School Hall of Fame, is also a Hall of Fame Member of Lamar University.

I can think of no one who cares for New Orleans like Kelly.

Kelly and his wife Elizabeth (pictured) received national recognition when they founded “Feed The Relief” that fed thousands of our first responders following Hurricane Katrina. His efforts led to him receiving the Charlie Bartlet Award of the Golf Writers Association of America for his unselfish contributions to the betterment of society held in Augusta, Georgia. Past award recipients include Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Payne Stewart, Greg Norman along with David Toms and Hal Sutton of Louisiana. In his acceptance speech upon receiving the Barbato-Thomas Award, he said it best with these simple and meaningful words, “I love New Orleans”.

Kelly’s affection for New Orleans continues on in his care for the future of junior golf. This calendar year will mark the beginning of the Kelly Gibson Junior Golf Tour serving the youth of the New Orleans area. Kelly’s first tournament will be the Girls’ High School Tournament held at Pinewood Country Club in Slidell on Saturday March 6. The event is hosted by PGA Professional James Leitz, one of the true leaders of golf in our area.

“I have taught many high school level girls through the years. Their competitive opportunities during the school year are more limited than the boy,” explained Leitz. “This tournament provides the opportunity for a begining of the year competitive event that will show the player what she needs to improve to be competitive at the regional and state level. We plan on this being an annual event.”

PGA member Brad White is the executive director of “Feed the Relief” and tournament director for the Kelly Gibson Junior Golf Tour.

“This tournament is going to be a great opportunity for all high school girls. Not only will they be competing against the top girls in our state, they will also have the opportunity to meet fellow girl golfers and hopefully make some new friends,” said White.

For information you can contact James Leitz at 985-643-6893 and jamesleitz@pga.com or Brad White through Feed the Relief at 504-400-8013 and bwhitepga@yahoo.com.

I have known Kelly since he was a 13 year old junior golfer with a dream. I can’t tell you how proud I am of his concern for New Orleans and helping other young people realize that all dreams are possible. Kelly is a living example of the true unselfish act of giving back. Kelly is an amazing treasure for our area.

Next week, I’ll discuss the LSU Tiger/Tulane Green Wave Women’s Golf Classic March 11-14. This event promises to be the finest women’s golf tournament ever held in New Orleans.

Good golf to all of you.

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