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Birdies for Brandon draws teams to links
Bradwell Institute golf coach Ken Griffin holds up autographed jerseys signed by Gary Guyton and Tom Brady that will be raffled off to raise funds for Brandon Hellgren, the 7-year-old son of Tigers baseball coach Rhett Hellgren. Brandon has myelofibrosis, a type of luekemia. - photo by Photo by John Wood

Twenty-two teams invaded Cherokee Rose Country Club on Saturday morning to play golf for a great cause.
The tournament, billed as Birdies for Brandon, was sponsored in conjunction with the Jay Smiley Memorial Foundation, according to tournament director Angie Dixon. Smiley was a former Liberty County Sheriff’s Office deputy.
Dixon, along with many other volunteers, spearheaded the effort to sell hole sponsorships and organize the fundraiser.
Brandon Hellgren is the son of Rhett Hellgren, a teacher and baseball coach at Bradwell Institute, and Judy Hellgren, a principal at Frank Long Elementary School.
Brandon was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a type of leukemia, at the age of 7. He has been traveling to St. Jude’s in Memphis for treatments.
“Judy and I would like to say thank you to all the people that put the tournament together — especially Mr. Smiley, who conducted it in his son Jay Smiley’s memory,” Rhett Hellgren said. “It is amazing the support we have received through this difficult time, and to see so many people at the tournament really touched my heart.”
Besides typical scramble fare such as best ball and closest to the pin, the tournament also allowed participants to buy opportunities to tee off closer to the hole or to buy feet for putts.
Hinesville Ford donated a Ford Ranger for any golfer who recorded a hole-in-one on the par-three No. 3 hole.
“This is a great cause, and we really thank the sponsors and Cherokee Rose for allowing us to host the tournament on the course,” Dixon said before the shotgun start.
Three hours later, the team of Chuck Smith, Ben Floyd, John Floyd and Chris Brinker won the tournament with a score of 23 under par.
After the tournament, the players met in the Cherokee Rose club room for lunch. As various awards were presented, longtime Bradwell Institute teacher and coach Aaron Mock offered a surprise for the Hellgren family and the crowd.
Mock worked with Bradwell Institute alum and current New England Patriots linebacker Gary Guyton to get an autographed jersey to raffle off. In addition to his own jersey, Guyton also sent a jersey signed by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Tickets will be sold for $10 at Bradwell football games, and the winner will have a chance for both jerseys. Tickets also can be purchased from Team Brandon members by emailing
Rhett Hellgren said he was really pleased with the turnout and that everyone seemed to enjoy themselves on the golf course.
“There have been so many people who have shown support through emails, cards and mostly prayer,” he said. “We are so blessed that we have friends and family willing to go the extra mile to see that Brandon receives the best care possible. We would ask that people continue to remember Brandon in their prayers as well as all the children at St. Judes who are fighting this battle.”
For more information on Team Brandon, go to

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