In 2011, the last time the annual Carl Arena & Al Rifkin Memorial High School Golf Tournament was held at RiverWinds, the team title was won by Middle Township with a 329 and the individual champion was Gloucester County Institute of Technology senior Louis Kelly. He held off Middle's Alex Hicks in a playoff after the two each carded 3-over par 75s in regulation.
That year marked the first time the tournament was held on a course other than Ron Jaworksi’s Valleybrook Country Club (formerly Blackwood Country Club when the tournament began back in 1982). The tournament now rotates between three of Jaworski's courses: Running Deer Golf Club (2012), Valleybrook (2013) and RiverWinds (2011 and this year).
Late in the afternoon, on the 18th hole, Kelly tapped in a par putt to take a one-stroke lead but Hicks was up to the task and drained a 33-foot putt to birdie the 18th and send the tournament to a playoff.
After the pair exchange pars on the first playoff hole, Kelly’s par on the second playoff hole clinched the title.
The Carl Arena & Al Rifkin Memorial Scholarship was named after two teachers from Highland High School. Carl Arena was a long-time Mechanical Drafting teacher and head golf coach. From his passing , a golf tournament and scholarship was organized to honor his values and interests in education and the sport of golf.
The first tournament took place in 1982 and was organized by Carl’s colleagues and friends Mr. Al Rifkin and Patrick Libro.
In the early years of the tournament, there were eight teams that participated in a traditional tee time start. Throughout the years, the tournament has grown in popularity in South Jersey and has become a landmark event that signifies the cutoff date to determine participation in the postseason tournaments.
Let’s take a peek at where the two top players from the memorable 28th playing of the Carl Arena & Al Rifkin Tournament are now.
Kelly, a Sewell resident, is a junior playing collegiately at Adelphi University where he was an all-conference performer (Northeast 10 Conference) last season.
This season, he was named the conference's golfer of the week back on March 25. In the first round of the St. James Plantation Invite in North Carolina, he carded a 7-under par 65 on the par-72 course. His score was five strokes better then anyone else on day one. Kelly would go on to post rounds of 2-over 74 and even-par 72, finishing the tournament a collegiate best, 5-under par 211, which was 10 shots clear of second place and helped the team win the tournament.
Hicks, a resident of Cape May Courthouse who graduated from Middle Township No. 1 in his class, is also playing collegiately. He's a junior at William & Mary College and helped his team place third at this past weekend's Colonial Athletic Association Championships at Founders Club at St. James Plantation in Southport, NC. Hicks carded a 3-under par 69 in Sunday's final round, the best round of the week by a W&M golfer.
Hicks also had some success last summer. Playing out of Wildwood Golf & Country Club, Hicks reached the final of the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) 113th Amateur Championship at Aronimink Golf Club before losing to Merion Country Club’s Michael McDermott