This year’s Ballard Memorial golf tournament marked a major milestone – its 50th year.
Taps on the trumpet – that is not a standard start to a round of golf, but this year, it marked the start of the 50th Melvin Ballard Memorial, hosted by the Rockford Sportsman’s Golf Association.
The R.S.G.A started in 1948. 70 years later, they’re still going strong.
"We’ve had guys in the club up in the eighties and high seventies," says tournament director Jerry Latin.
These men knew Melvin Ballard the person, and player.
"He didn’t like to play with beginners. So he just went off and left me," Vernon Charles humorously recalls.
"An easy going individual. Very good golfer. Everyone was amazed. Very good, very good," says Lee Sagal.
Vernon Charles continues – "Matter of fact, I was with him the night he left to go to Vietnam. That’s the last time I saw him."
Melvin Ballard died on March 11, 1967 while serving in Vietnam.
Out on the golf course, when the players go off, they play with a purpose.
"As you get older, you realize the reason behind it. It’s too important to let that memory go. So it’s important to the Park District, Rockford, and the RSGA. We’re going to make sure it keeps going," says RPD director of golf operations Duncan Geddes.
"There are more important things than golf. This is someone who died serving our country. It’s very cool to play in a tournament to honor him," says 2018 Ballard Memorial winner Robert Dofflemyer.
Melvin Ballard is memorialized every year on the links, and now, on Rockford’s calendar.
"June 16 is Melvin Ballard Day by the city council. That was a great award also," says Jerry Latin.
All for a man whose name sits on Panel 16E, Line 56 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and whose name is affixed to a golf tournament that has seen 50 years, and will see many more.