Sports

Slavic Invitational golf tournament returns Sept. 29

George Byrd and Nick Beale won the 2016 Slavic Invitational Tournament.
George Byrd and Nick Beale won the 2016 Slavic Invitational Tournament. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

The annual Slavic Invitational returns to six of the Coast’s premier golf courses Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

What began 44 years ago as a small club tournament for members of Biloxi’s Slavic Benevolent Association has grown into the largest, most anticipated and raucous golf championship on Mother Earth. The 43rd annual event (forced to skip one year by Hurricane Katrina in 2005) will again feature over 1,000 golfers from across the country.

Many of them will revel in the three-day bacchanalian pursuit of on-course delectables like mini roast beef-n-gravy poboys on crusty fresh bread from Le Bakery, washed down robustly with varying cold beverages. Others, like defending champions Nick Beale and George Byrd, will focus on excelling at golf in pursuit of the prestigious and revered championship trophy.

As of this date, over 430 two-man teams have registered, a number notable because it easily exceeds last year’s total at the same point three weeks before tee off. Entries are accepted until Sept. 18 at slavicinvitational.com.

“We’re well on our way to another record field of more than 520 teams,” said longtime tournament co-chair David Leckich. “Everyone knows about the Slavic. It’s part of our modern day culture.”

Participants will tune up during practice rounds Sept. 25-28 at the event courses: Fallen Oak, Sunkist, Windance, Grand Bear and Diamondhead Pine and Cardinal. Serious and semi-serious competition begins Sept. 29 with morning and afternoon rounds at all event sites save Fallen Oak, which is reserved for only the championship finale on Oct. 1.

Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich, also a longtime co-chair of the event, said that the Slavic’s financial impact on the Coast is often overlooked. He said the Slavic has “a multi-million dollar impact on the Coast economy during the tourism lull between Labor Day and Cruisin’ the Coast.”

Off course highlights include intimate, three-hour dinners for 2,000 guests in the conference rooms at the posh Beau Rivage, recurring tournament headquarters. The dinners are prepared and served by the membership of east Biloxi’s Slavonian Lodge and its Ladies Auxiliary.

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