A highlighted history of the Jake Gittlen Memorial Golf Tournament:
In 1965, Jake Gittlen initiated the Blue Ridge Invitational. It was the only individual golf event in the area where the country club members could compete with the public course player. “We now have the old city championship back again,” said Jake.
Jake passed away of cancer in May 1970. Blue Ridge renamed its annual tournament, calling it the Jake Gittlen Memorial. Warren Gittlen, Jake’s son and a former Penn State Golf Captain, decided to use the event as a vehicle to raise funds for cancer research at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, to honor the memory of his father.
The first Gittlen Tournament was held in September 1970. Only 50 golfers played in the first “Gittlen.” John Travers, Patriot-News sportswriter, who wrote a farewell column to Jake, gave the keynote speech at the annual banquet.
In February 1972, Golf Digest wrote an article about the tournament in its annual issue, praising the charitable work in an article entitled “Golf Fights Cancer.”
In 1996, the event was first held at Country Club of Hershey.
In 1997, WHTM televised the final round for 3 hours. This was the first time a golf tournament was televised in Central Pennsylvania.
In 2008, Greg Lesher won the tournament, being the first former PGA Tour player to play in the event and go on to win it.
In 2010, Wayne Zolko, Controller and CFO for Penn State Hershey, told all friends and donors what impact their dollars made in the world class work our Gittlen cancer researchers made in the pioneering of the first anti-cancer vaccine – Gardasil (cervical cancer). Each year of the tournament, participation and donations grew. Corporate sponsorship from the likes of McDonald’s, SVCC Satellite, Sprint, Sysco, ABC27 and, of course, Giant Food Stores, has blossomed.
In 1970, we raised $2,500. In 2011, Giant Food Stores received a two minute standing ovation when John Lerch presented the largest check ever given to us – $500,000! In 2014, $850,000 was contributed to The Jake Gittlen Laboratories for Cancer Research.
The “Gittlen” is recognized as the largest fund raising amateur golf event in the country