Teeing up for the Warhorses

Warhorse Classic returns for 31st year on July 12

Fred McCormick

Every summer the whistles from Warhorse Stadium can be heard throughout the Swannanoa Valley as the current crop of Owen football players practice swim moves, footwork and other techniques in preparation for the fall season. For generations these summer practices have provided the setting in which bonds are formed and pride in Warhorse football is cultivated.

Just a few miles away, at the Black Mountain Golf Course, many former Owen football players gather annually and reminisce about those summer practices and the glory days between swings during the Warhorse Classic, which returns for its 31st year on Wednesday, July 12.

What started out as a way to raise money for the Warhorse football team has become a tradition since 1986 when former Owen football coach and player Kenny Ford organized the first golf tournament.

Not much will change this year, according to Ford, who agreed to continue organizing the event despite his retirement from the school in 2015. Prior to his coaching career, he played offensive and defensive line for the Warhorses before graduating from Owen in 1974.

“(The tournament) is a great way for people who care about the football program at Owen to get together, have fun and give back,” Ford said. “We usually get around 100 people to show up for it every year.”

Kenny Ford gives final instructions to golfers during the 2014 Warhorse Classic.

This year’s tournament will start at 12 p.m., according to Ford, who adds that the primary difference between the 2017 Warhorse Classic and those of years past is the day of the week.

“I used to have them on Fridays,” he said. “Now I’m finding out after doing it for 30 years that on Friday, people have things to do.”

This year’s tournament will once again feature “a lot of prizes,” he said.  Among them will be the potential to win a new car from Ken Wilson Ford with a hole-in-one on a designated hole.

“Someone’s due to win a car this year,” Ford said. “I really can’t thank Ken Wilson Ford enough for supporting us all these years.”

Another regular contributor to the Warhorse program, Anne Michaels, is donating the money to pay for the meat that will be served.

“Her help is tremendous,” Ford said. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without her.”

There will again be the familiar smell drifting over the course from the 10th hole, where mayor Michael Sobol sets up every year to barbecue for the event.

Mayor Michael Sobol serves barbecue fresh from the grill at the Warhorse Classic in 2014.

Sobol is another former Owen Warhorse. As a senior in 1967, he played guard and linebacker and was the captain of the team. As a junior, he played center on the first Owen football team to finish the regular season with a perfect record. He continues to keep in touch with many of his former teammates.

“Kenny asked me years ago to barbecue for the tournament,” Sobol said. “Plenty of other Owen graduates offered to help, and we’ve been doing it ever since. I enjoy doing it.”

Supporting the Swannanoa Valley’s only high school football program is important, according to Sobol.