September 2008

The Corey Cup: Celebrate Life!

Author: Lindsey Hawkins

“Celebrate we will
Because life is short but sweet for certain
We’re climbing two by two
To be sure these days continue,
Things we cannot change…
Things we cannot change.”—Dave Matthews Band

Corey Michael Cerrone passed away tragically, March 29, 2000, at age 26. Corey, a son, brother, uncle, nephew and best friend, is a local example of how the human spirit truly touches others and echoes on into eternity by the power of memory and the act of kindness.

It’s not the quantity it’s the quality. Twenty-six short years of one life has brought eight years of quality memories and a growing awareness of how one quality life can impact so many.

We are talking about the 9th Annual Corey Cerrone Memorial Golf Tournament and the impact Corey’s loved ones have made on our community just by celebrating his life. The example, set by true love, can be followed with a smidge of time spent, organization and dedication. Oh yeah, you also need just an ounce of desire to have fun, help others and celebrate the meaning of living!

If you’ve lived on Hilton Head Island, even briefly, no doubt you have seen Corey’s giant smile on a poster or a donation box somewhere on the island. And in case you were wondering, but were too afraid to ask, here is a story of inspiration that sets the bar for others looking to celebrate the memory of lives lost.

A classical guitar player and a charismatic personality picked up his instrument at the Old Oyster Factory one Fourth of July and decided to perform the Star Spangled Banner, Jimi Hendrix style. In a restaurant filled with patrons of different ages and demographics—some strangers, some friends, some locals, some visitors—a crowd of faces, for a split second, seemed a little startled. When they realized what was being played, let’s just say Corey brought the house down and people went wild!

“He had an infectious smile,” said Jay Gorman, friend of Corey.

“I can remember cruisin’ with him—one of the nicest people in my entire life,” said childhood best friend TJ Niehaus. “He really would do anything for anyone.”

His musical gift earned him a full scholarship to the University of South Carolina, but Corey’s performances didn’t end there. Amidst surprise guitar solo acts, the playful entertainer also possessed the ability to impersonate with perfection Keanu Reeves in the movie Point Break, recalls Buddy Konecny, a huge fan of Corey who was his favorite employee at his favorite hang-out, The Lodge. “He had the ‘it’ factor people are just born with that provokes people to laugh and smile, and on top of it all, he got bit by the golf bug,” he said. “You might say he was the perfect recipe for a true, young Hilton Head Islander—life of the party, lover of the game—who came from the north to celebrate his passion for music and people.”

Unfortunately, every celebration must come to an end. However, this is why we find new ways to celebrate and “remember half the good times you forgot,” said Niehaus of the Corey Cup.

The Corey Cup is not just your average golf tournament. It’s a tournament with flare and pizzazz! And if Corey himself were here to coordinate it, he wouldn’t have done it any other way. This year’s tourney is held again at Old South Golf Links and will occur on Saturday, September 6. It’s a tournament for old faces and new faces. Whether you knew Corey or not, you will leave feeling like you met him.

“The Cup is my breath of fresh air,” said Konecny. “My business is so busy during season and the tournament is the first day and break after the season ends; so I drop everything and stick it on the back burner.”

Konecny, who plays in the tournament every year with his wife and usually four others, sponsors his team. He sees 75 percent of the same faces each year. “People who have moved come back for it because it’s a party and a strive to make a difference all in one,” he said.

“It’s a party,” said Niehaus. “Everything is donated. There are T-shirts and prizes, including a par-3 competition where people can win a car and trips. There is a helicopter golf ball drop for charity and a speech and moment of silence in the beginning where 144 people throw golf balls into a pond.”

Neihaus added, “No one forgets what they’re there for: remembering friendships, telling stories and laughing their faces off.”

The Corey Cup benefits many charities and causes. It’s organized by family, friends, and volunteers and promoted like crazy via word-of-mouth, fliers and e-mails. The community is behind it because the impact is so tremendous. To date over $220,000 dollars has been raised for those in need, including Hilton Head Heroes, PEP, Volunteers in Medicine, Strive to Excel, and SC Governors School of Arts and Humanities. The current cup goal for this year is $50,000 dollars and should easily be reached.

The tournament is for anyone, and those who participate have the opportunity to take away priceless new memories and remember and cherish the memories of the past in a way that truly celebrates the value of life, family and friendship.

“I will never forget a few days before Corey passed,” said Gorman. “We played golf together at Belfair. I always loved hanging with Corey and the tournament allows me to remember that time we spent together. We were both big Red Sox fans.”

All-American smile, all-American baseball fan, all-American rock-star, all-American guy. Corey Michael Cerrone, you have allowed us to celebrate the lives of many including the tremendous life that was your own.

For more information on the Corey Cup or advice on how to remember your loss through helping others, visit

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