Tournament aids Salmon Defense

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SEQUIM, Wash. - For many novice or recreational golfers, the idea of entering a golf tournament could easily incite anxious and overwhelming feelings.

But coordinators of the third annual Salmon Defense Golf Tournament want to assure all golf enthusiasts that the event centers on generating money and fun for a great cause, rather than focusing on a large trophy and check.

;'We're trying to make this fun for everybody, not just the ringers,'' said Salmon Defense representative Willy Frank.

This year's tournament tees off May 16 at the Cedars at Dungeness Golf Course, owned by the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe in Sequim, about 100 miles north of the state capital of Olympia. All proceeds will benefit Salmon Defense, a nonprofit organization that focuses on salmon education and generating public awareness on the dwindling species. They also support other organizations trying to protect salmon and the water it swims in.

The tribe purchased and assumed management of the 18-hole course in January 2007. And rain may not even be an issue that day in a region known for unpredictable downpours: The sun shines more in Sequim than anywhere else in western Washington.

''Hopefully the weather will be nice and everyone will come out and have a good time,'' Frank said.

Salmon Defense spokesman Fran Wilshusen said the golf tournament has become the major fundraising event of the year since the organization formed in 2003.

''We're really a young organization, so this tournament is our bread and butter,'' she said.

Wilshusen works as a habitat services manager for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, a major supporter of the fledgling organization. NWIFC was formed in the 1970s by tribes with fishing treaties to assist in the operation of biologically sound fisheries.

Players at this year's tournament will play in teams of four. The entry fee is $125 for a single player and $500 for a foursome. The price includes a valet bag drop, driving range warm-up, power carts and awards.

Prizes will be awarded for the longest putt, closest to the pin, and the longest drive and best score. Throughout the day, volunteers will randomly bestow prizes to players.

''There will be something for everyone,'' Wilshusen said.

She also said that sponsorships are available to help raise money for the cause as well as prize money. An individual or group could sponsor a hole for $2,000, or sponsor one or all of the golf contests.

Last year, the event raised about $20,000.

''We're hoping to raise quite a bit more than that,'' Wilshusen said.

Funds from previous tournaments are currently being utilized to educate younger generations on the importance of keeping threatened salmon off the extinction list in addition to how the species plays a crucial role to the culture and diet of coastal Native people.

Frank, a member of the Nisqually Indian Tribe, said his involvement with Salmon Defense grew out of a college internship.

''I have been working on the golf tournament for three months, just trying to raise money and trying to get the word out,'' he said. ''We would like a little more support.''

The S'Klallam-owned Seven Cedars Casino will host a banquet following the tournament. Assistant General Manager Jerry Allen said that last year's event drew a little more than 100 players.

''I am hopeful to exceed that this year and get us up to a full field of 144 people,'' he said.

Last year, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community hosted the event; the Nisqually Indian Tribe had the honor of hosting the inaugural event in 2006. The goal is to rotate the annual event to different tribally owned golf courses and resorts within western coastal Washington.

''In Indian country, if you can work your way toward other Indian-owned businesses, it becomes a win-win situation,'' Allen said. ''We get to show off our casino and reservation, and people get to see what we're doing and what we're about.''

Five members of western coastal tribes in the Evergreen State founded Salmon Defense. They wanted an organization that served the region and primarily focused on generating public awareness and providing education to students about salmon. The five founding board members meet about four times a year.

To help increase awareness on the fragility of salmon in relation to pollution and global warming, the organization supported the creation of the docudrama ''Shadow of the Salmon.''

The 42-minute film is geared toward high school students and available for public viewing on the Salmon Defense Web site. It tells the story of an Oglala Lakota/Coast Salish teenage boy who leaves the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to spend a summer with his aunt and uncle. During his stay, he witnesses how his coastal relations handle an oil spill and how salmon is the lifeline to them.

Additionally, companion curriculum was developed and currently available for this film.

Wilshusen said they are currently working on restoring and digitizing a film made in the 1970s about Native fishing rights.

For more information on the golf tournament and Salmon Defense, visit www.salmondefense.org.