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This year's annual Joe Carter Classic Golf Tournament was once again a smashing success, with the Toronto Blue Jays legend and his friends coming together to raise funds for the education and development of Canadian youth. In its 8th year now, the tournament has grown into a multi-day event of fun, friendship, good times, good deeds and giving. Carter, an American born and raised, is currently putting his expertise to use as a special assistant to the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, but every year he returns to the city in which he was immortalized to give back to the community and offer a great time for all involved.

Tournament co-founder and friend of namesake Joe Carter, James Dodds, said that the idea came about during a round of golf eight years ago at Fox Harbour, in Nova Scotia.

"Joe and I were out on the course and he started talking about his desire to give back to the GTA community somehow," Dodds said. "Combining that with his love of golf was really a no-brainer."

James Dodds (left), at the Joe Carter Classic with the man himself.

While the main event always takes place on the links - this year at Eagles Nest Golf Club in Maple, Ontario - and features some fierce competition between golf fanatics and celebrity athletes, entertainers and personalities, the Joe Carter Classic (JCC) is much more. Since the tournament is always open to new people, anyone interested will be happy to know that there is something for everyone throughout the course of the two-day event!

Although the JCC has been blessed with recurring guests - both sponsors and participants - each year there are a number of lucky people who get to enjoy the tournament for the first time, and Dodds says this is one of the best parts for him, every year.

"There's always a few new faces every year, and getting to watch their reactions as they participate and experience all of the different things we do throughout the event is always a higlight, for me," Dodds said.

The first day kicked off this year at Eagles Nest with the 4th Annual Joe Carter Classic Celebrity Skins game. Now, for those not familiar with that term, I'll give you a brief idea of how a skins game works:

Essentially, in a skins game, every hole on the course is assigned a certain value; the player who who wins the hole wins that value and is said to have won the "skin." In the event that a hole is tied, than the value is rolled into that of the following hole and players simply move on and continue competing. It's a popular form of play amongst friends who like to add a little excitement to the game, and in the context of the JCC, the money all goes to benefit the cause of supporting kids in need. It's an awesome opportunity for the tournaments' celebrity guests to warm up, blow off a little steam and get the giving ball rolling!

Normally I'd say you can tell the winners by who's smiling, but clearly - in this kind of tournament - everyone wins!

James Dodds says that the skins game and the tournament itself is like a great, big reunion of family and friends every year!

"I'd consider it a family event," Dodds said. "We pretty much have the same recurring sponsors every year and celebrity athletes year in and year out. For some of it will have been a full year since we've seen each other and that always makes it a really special event.

Unfortunately, golf cart drag races are not a part of the event, no matter how this photo looks!

Following the skins game, the party moved to the Summit Suite at the Rogers Centre to take in the Blue Jays game against the Tampa Bay Rays as well as a silent auction to benefit the cause! The excitement of a home field game matched only by the exuberance and fun as people mingled together in the box.

Jose's bat flip and Star Wars merch AND KISS, oh my!

The following day, the real competition kicked off back at Eagle's Nest with the big tournament. Different from the skins game the day before, the tournament proper pairs community golf fanatics with the celebrity guests to create a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to play a round with some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment. Nothing beats the chance to outdrive an NHL player as far as bragging rights go. 

Current Maple Leafs like Nazem Kadri squared off against old teammates like Dion Phaneuf and legendary Leafs' alums, broadcasters and entertainment figures took their on-screen antics to the greens and Carlton the bear was there for moral support. Most importantly, said Dodds, the loyalty and support of the sponsors and participants meant that a great deal was raised in support of children's charities throughout the GTA!

"We're just very lucky, year after year, that people believe in us and in the tournament and that they choose to support us in such a big way," he said. "Raising these funds for the kids and for Children's Aid and Jays Care Foundation, and knowing that everyone has such a good time always brings a smile to my face."

Brothers in arms, Dian Phaneuf and Nazim Kadri.

The best are best because they understand the importance of practice!

They're not kidding when they say they're family - THIS is trust!

Halfway cigar break on the 9th hole!

The fun didn't stop when the tournament wrapped up, though, and no matter how high people scored on the links, they could take solace that the evenings afterparty at the Ritz-Carlton, downtown, was set to be one of the biggest parties of the year, featuring musical guests DMC and Arrested Development.

Arrested Development performing.

Headliner DMC bringing the house down.

All said, the 8th iteration of the Joe Carter Classic was a massive success, bringing people together - celebrities, athletes and Torontonians - and benefiting the GTA community in a huge way. For anyone who missed their shot this year, never fear, just keep your eyes open for next years tournament in order to get in on the fun, do some serious good for the community and join the JCC family!


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