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At the 2011 Gray Classic, women shared wisdom and encouragement

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At the 2011 Gray Classic Women's Empowerment Brunch, some women shared nuggets of wisdom they learned from mothers, aunts and grandmothers. Others offered advice to younger women in the audience. (Photo: Qcitymetro.com)

The Gray Classic Golf Tournament has been known mainly as an event for men. This year, the three-day event had a more feminine feel.

On Saturday, while golfer teed up just a short distance away, more than 125 women gathered in the Ballantyne Resort Hotel for a women’s empowerment brunch. For two and a half hours they told stories of sisterhood and shared messages of encouragement…woman to woman.

Some shared the wisdom they learned from mothers, aunts and grandmothers. Others offered advice to younger women in the audience.

“Never make someone your priority who keeps you as an option,” one participant shared to a round of applause.

The brunch was moderated by WCNC News Anchor Sonja Gantt.

Plans for growth

 Felicia Gray

Felicia Gray, wife of tournament founder Herb Gray, said the brunch grew naturally out of an event last year when several women gathered at the Gray’s home while the men were playing golf. Felicia Gray said that with the success of this year’s event, she anticipates that the brunch will become a permanent fixture.

“This year has been incredible,” she said. “I want to see it with 200 women next year. I want to see it growing; I want to see it reaching out; I want to see it spreading the word across the Carolinas.”

Shannon McKnight, who attended the brunch and won one of several door prizes – a custom necklace -- said she was surprised by how much she learned.

“It was great to see African American women get together and have nuggets of wisdom to share with other people, other African American women,” she said. “This is the best empowerment brunch I’ve ever been to.”

Tarina Pettiway, who also attended, said she found encouragement listening to other women speak of the challenges they have met and overcome.

“I met a lot of new friends, and I was rejuvenated as a woman to go out and do my best,” she said.

Golfing event surpassed goals

As for golfing, which is played on Saturday, more than 200 people signed up this year, said Herb Gray. That number was up from about 160 last year.

Gray said the tournament “far surpassed” his goals and required the resort to bring in extra carts. Food was supplied by a number of vendors, including Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Calvin Stokes, owner of Straight to the Plate Catering.

“Now it’s just a matter of managing it for next year,” Herb Gray said.

The tournament was started four years ago as a one-day outing and has morphed into a weekend that includes parties, networking and other events. Net proceeds are donated to the 100 Black Men of Charlotte’s youth mentoring program. Last year’s tournament raised more than $30,000 for the program, Herb Gray said. Figures for this year were not immediately available.

Some of the young mentees were on hand Saturday for an afternoon of golf lessons from Andre Springs, golf coach at Livingstone College. Springs, who is also head teaching professional at Birkdale Golf Club in Huntersville, said he hoped the boys would come away with more than simply a golf lesson.

“The thing about golf is, number one, you can play it all your life,” he said. “Number two, there are a lot of business people out there and you can mingle and socialize and build relationships.”

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October 5, 2015
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