The Riverside Men’s Golf Association is arguably the biggest public municipal golf league in the state.

With 191 members this season, and as many as 220 a few years back, RMGA continues to thrive.

But don’t tell RMGA President Rick Berry that it’s simply a golf league.

“I think if you talk to any of our members they will tell you that RMGA is not a league but a social event,” Berry said. “It’s a place where friendships are formed.

“The majority of those that play have been RMGA members for more than 30 years. They love the format. It gives them a chance to play once a week on one of the state’s top public courses, and they know that through their generous donations, we’re able to give back to the community in a number of ways.”

RMGA started more than 50 years ago as a way to promote golf at Riverside. Members pay a $110 entry fee that includes a WSGA handicap card, entry fees to three club tournaments, weekly skins games, hole-in-one insurance and green fees for the final play day at Evergreen in Elkhorn, which took place Saturday.

RMGA meets every Thursday for 20 straight weeks starting in May. Ole Helgestad is 90 years old and has been an RMGA member for more than 50 years.

Berry has been president for the last 13 years and sits on a board that includes Greg Mullen, Tom Noll, Jeff Brault, Matt Runde and Doug Whitescarver. Jim Crawford is the organization’s Scholarship Committee Chairman.

Matt Ellis recently returned to Riverside as the head professional after serving in the same capacity at Greenfield Park Golf Course, which is a part of the Milwaukee County Parks system. He realizes the impact that RMGA has on not only Riverside but the community, as well.

“RMGA probably has more members than the entire men’s club leagues in Milwaukee County combined,” Ellis said.

“They’re the most important customer we have and generate a lot of revenue for us. The members are instrumental for us as far as their input into new projects, helping to pay for our capital funds and contributing to our junior golf program.”

Ellis and assistant pro Ryne Clatworthy played Monday in an outing for Gifts Men’s Shelter and set out to raise money Thursday for the event during RMGA’s final play day. Ellis said over $1,500 was raised in a three-hour span thanks to the generous contributions of RMGA members.

Among the fundraisers that RMGA participates in is the “ace pot” at Riverside. Money raised is disbursed through scholarships at Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker, as well as scholarship money for RMGA members’ children who plan on attending college. Last spring, RMGA distributed more than $3,000 in scholarship money.

The organization also participates in an annual Memorial Tournament fundraiser that raises money for the VFW Club in town. Vietnam veteran and RMGA member Jeff Hassinger spearheads the project, with the organization raising thousands of dollars for the VFW over the last several years.

RMGA’s Independence Tournament is a fundraiser for the Janesville Patriotic Society. Last year, RMGA raised $550 that went toward the purchase of new flags at various citywide locations. The Independence Tournament also features local veterans tending pins on the ninth and 18th holes at Riverside.

RMGA recently wrapped up yet another successful season, but the league’s impact on the community continues year-round.

And members are right, the Riverside Men’s Golf Association is far more than your typical weekly golf league.

John Barry is a sports writer for The Gazette. Email him at jbarry@gazettextra.com.

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