Some buddy golf trips last longer than others.
Some have more meaning. None so more than the annual outing chargrilled over the fire of friendship one night on The Point in Biloxi. After reading an article in Southern Living on San Destin golf while barbequing at Craig Meaut’s house, Mark Barhanovich teed off about planning a Florida buddy trip that has lasted over a quarter century.
The trip began as an informal golf excursion in 1991, but the guys had so much fun that Barhanovich, Matt Jermyn and Meaut organized it into an invitational in 1992, later adding Ronny Ransonet to the informal committee.
“We always went to Destin, but in 2001 we started going to Orange Beach because of the cost,” said Jermyn.
On the morning of Sept. 16, 2012, Ransonet, Jermyn and Barhanovich were going fishing, something they did together quite often when they weren’t playing golf. Baranovichi’s outboard motor slammed into a submerged pipe near Deer Island that fateful day. The impact sent the motor into the boat with him and Ransonet.
“I was in another boat when it happened,” said Jermyn. “I brought him to shore so that we could get him to the Ocean Springs Hospital, but the prop had done too much damage.”
Jermyn noted: “it was one of the most widely attended funerals ever seen in the state according to David Riemann.”
The event, now named the Mark Barhanovich Invitational, has grown from 16 people to now 40 invitees. They will celebrate the 25th anniversary March 30 thru April 1 in Florida again this year.
“Every year we hand select the people who go,” said Jermyn. “They have to have known Mark and have to blend with the people who go. The invites that are sent out are critiqued pretty hard.”
The committee makes sure that everyone has a chance to win skins and greenies. The top money winner is crowned the tournament champion and dons the coveted Tournament Jacket. The Otis Campbell Award is given to the golfer who consumes the most adult beverages. Names are withheld to protect the innocent.
The 2013 Mark Barhanovich Invitational was emotional to say the least, but the committee who now welcomes Mark’s son Stevie made sure then that fun was the driving force behind their travel.
“It still works pretty hard on us today,” said Jermyn. “We have banners made with his picture. We don’t want to forget our purpose. Mark loved people, and he loved this event.”
On Saturday, the committee and all invitees will gather at the Seafood Museum in Biloxi to pick Ryder Cup-style teams, enjoy some friendly teasing and share a few tears at the annual Bru-Ha-Ha, but the devotion to Mark and his love of life will be the main topic of the evening.
Whether the group treks to Florida or Alabama, their purpose to honor Mark and his love for people is resolute.
Tommy Snell, golf coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, writes a column for the Sun Herald.