It was only fitting that the start of the inaugural Camren's On The Green Memorial Golf Tournament started with a bang on Saturday, March 23, at the Oak Terrace Resort in Pana... literally.
The tournament honoring the memory of the young man who once bought a gong to take to Nokomis High School games started with a strike of a bigger version of Neisler's favorite fan prop.
"We did a gong start instead of shotgun because Camren loved being involved in the student section at the games," said Camren's mother, Brandy Chausse, whose son passed away after a car crash on Oct. 25, 2018. "He thought it was a good idea to buy a gong to take to the games. I told him it probably would not last long so he got one swing at it at a game and it got taken away."
The real gong itself even made an appearance on hole number ten, Camren's baseball number. For a donation, players had the opportunity to play Bing Bong (Camren's nickname) Pong and attempt to get their shot in the front hole of a game board.
If they were successful, they got to hit Camren's gong and received a "I hit the gong for Bing Bong" dog tag. If they missed, an extra $5 got them a gong strike and a dog tag anyway.
A larger gong was located at another hole manned by a group of Camren's friends. For a donation, players could try to hit the gong with a golf ball, with the added degree of difficulty of doing so while wearing a dress.
"The reason they did that is because Camren loved dress up days at school for Homecoming week and he usually went all out," Chausse explained. "His sophomore year, they had red carpet day. Camren comes to me because Haily was in college and was not home and asked if he could borrow one of Haily's dresses. I was like, 'oh my' but said lets go see what we can find. So he wore it to school and of course won the prize that day."
While the day was a celebration of all things Camren, the tournament also served to raise funds to keep his memory alive and benefit the next generation. This year's event raised $28,448.25, which will be used for community projects, including scholarships in Camren's name and plans for a nine-hole mini-golf course at Shane Cole Park in Nokomis.
If you weren't among the golfers or more than 100 sponsors of this year's tournament, next year's date is set for March 28, 2020. For more information on Camren's On The Green, go to www.facebook.com/CamrensOntheGreen.