Gilliam tournament celebrates 30 years

Huntsville graduate John Wilson (center) was awarded the annual $4,000 Terry L. Gilliam Scholarship for the fall 2018 semester. Wilson, of Hindsville, will attend the University of Arkansas with plans to major in economics. His high school career included participation in several athletics programs, and he was the Senior Class president and a member of the National Honor Society, among many other clubs. Pictured with Wilson are (from left) Barry Cleaver, Kami Shrum and Wilson’s parents, Whitney and Kevin.

The 30th annual Terry Gilliam Golf Tournament is set for Saturday at the Oakridge Golf Course in Huntsville.

Two flights will tee off at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. The foundation provides an annual $4,000 scholarship to a Huntsville senior and a grant program to local schools.

Gilliam, a 1965 graduate of Huntsville High School, excelled at sports and academics. He lost his life in Vietnam while saving his unit.

Gilliam Foundation chairman Barry Tice said he and his brother, Tom, were friends with Gilliam, who was a year older than Barry and four years older than Tom.

“He lived right up the street from me, over on Cain Avenue, where I grew up,” Tom Tice said. “He was my idle. He was everything I wanted to be. He was the star player in all the sports Huntsville had and he was an outstanding student and involved in every aspect of high school student life.”

Tom Tice said Gilliam played football, basketball, ran track and played American Legion baseball. Tom, athletic director at Huntsville, said he’s very happy about the golf tournament’s longevity.

“These things tend to die out and lose some of their energy, but not this one,” he said. “30 years is a long time. We struggled when we started this. It had been some 19 years since he had died. My brother and I and other friends of Terry’s struggled with how we wanted to do something to perpetuate his memory, and this certainly has worked out well to do that.”

Tom said he plays in the tournament each year.

“I struggle through it every year,” he said with a laugh. “JoAnn (Tom’s wife) and I play in it every year. Back in the old days when we first started, we gave a rain gauge to the team that came in last, and we have several rain gauges in our closets.”

Tom added that the event is more than a golf tournament.

“It’s a homecoming every year to see lots of people who started with us, playing with us, the sponsors that go all the way back to 1988,” he said. “It’s so good to see them.”

Tom said golfers will include “some ex-teammates of my own and then certainly some people that were instrumental in his [Gilliam’s] life.”

Barry Tice said the tournament is “like a big family.” Golfers come from throughout Arkansas, as well as from Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

“We’ve got sponsors that have been with us the whole time,” Barry said.

Barry said organizers try to keep the tournament field to 60 teams (or 120 players). Golfers take part by invitation only, he said, though there is a waiting list in case a golfer decides not to play.

The grants and scholarships have provided well over $125,000, Barry said. The grants are split between athletics and academics, in alternating years, Barry said. This year, the money will go toward academics. The awards should be given out before the start of school, he said.

“We will let any teacher in school apply to us for what they need,” he said.

Previous grants have funded science equipment, a math lab, computers and more.

“We pick out the ones that we think benefits the most kids,” Barry said. “It can be any grade. We’ve done it for kindergarten all the way through high school.

“We like to award that before school goes back in. That lets the teachers go ahead and get what they’ve asked for.”

In the year that athletics benefit from the grants, Tom Tice will  survey all the coaches and “ask them what they’d like to have,” Barry said.

“If we have the money to do everything they want, we try to do it,” Barry said. “Sometimes we have to look at what benefits the most kids [and] what we think helps the most.”

Barry Tice also has fond memories of Gilliam.

“We all ended up over on Cain Avenue,” he said. “We played everything. Terry was a great athlete. Us Tice boys loved sports. Terry and I used to do a lot of fishing. We used to play a little golf.”

Barry said he and Gilliam once built a golf course in a field  using lawn mowers.

“You had to do something,” Barry said. “We didn’t have anything. We didn’t have any money or anything like that. We started working early. We played hard and we worked hard.”

Barry said anyone interested in playing in Saturday’s tournament needs to be placed on the waiting list.

“Any sponsorship or any help, we’re open,” he said, when asked if non-golfers could help the cause.

The cost to participate in the tournament is $160 per team, and those interested in playing or helping can call Tom Tice at 870-688-3628 or Barry Tice at 479-738-7517.

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