The 11th Annual Graduate Business Alumni Golf and Bocce Tournament took place on August 19, marking another successful event for Saint Mary’s School of Economics and Business Administration (SEBA) students, alumni, family and friends. The tournament is hosted by the Saint Mary’s Graduate Business Alumni Council and is designed to bring together SEBA alums to network, reconnect and further the alumni association’s mission of Network, Learn and Serve.
“This event is the crown jewel of alumni functions,” said Faculty Liaison to Graduate Business Alumni Mike Leary. “This tournament brings in a large cross-section of people. There are alumni here that graduated three decades ago who are meeting and playing with students who graduated this past May. It’s a great way for people to get together, network and make friendships.”
Over 200 people attended this year’s tournament at Diablo Country Club on a warm, cloudless day. The tournament featured 140 golfers, 50 bocce players and 210 total dinner attendees— recording highs in each category.
“It’s been a very organic growth,” said Leary. “We get a lot of repeat business with our sponsors and with our participants. Many of the people who come once end up coming back again and again. Once someone finds out about this event, they tend to stick.”
Among those repeat sponsors were KRT Marketing, which was this year’s Gael Graduate Ace Sponsor, and Northwestern Mutual, which was the Gael Graduate Eagle Sponsor. Garaventa Enterprises, Merrill Lynch, Solar Universe, Stanford’s Restaurant and Bar, Ramsell, Provident Credit Union, Water Lines Leaking, Earthlink Business, Cooks Collision, BMW of Concord and Play it Again Sports all contributed this year as Gael Graduate Birdie Sponsors, many of which were sponsors of previous tournaments. Special sponsors for this year’s tournament included Heidi Parks, Pinky’s Pizza, Mike Clothier, Jim Irish and Techmart.
Strengthening ties within the alumni base is one of the main goals of the annual tournament, and having a core group of sponsors and participants is a means to that end, said Joe Buenavista. “Because we have different types of MBA programs that are located on different campuses, we have a bit of a transient base. This tournament is designed to bring continuity to the program and build a sense of community.”
This year was Buenavista’s eighth as chairman of the graduate business alumni tournament, and it is the personal connection that he’s established with the people involved in this tournament that keeps him coming back. “There’s a real emotional aspect to what makes this tournament unique. What’s touching to me is getting to see that core group of people—both sponsors and alumni—that come back year after year.”
Charlene McKenney, managing director at Northwestern Mutual’s San Francisco Bay Area Group in Pleasanton and ’02 Executive MBA alumna, is part of that core group. McKenney has been active in the alumni tournament for many years as both a sponsor and a participant, and though her role as a sponsor has increased over time, being able to stay connected to the alumni base remains the core reason for her continued support. “Sponsorship used to mean having a table set up and bringing sodas, but each year our role has increased. Now there are different levels of sponsorship recognition and businesses are seeing the value of promoting their services to graduate business alumni.”
"I just have a great time with everyone I interact with at these tournaments," McKenney added. "That's what keeps me coming back."
Golfers began the day with a putting and chipping contest before their scramble, a new addition to this year’s tournament. Meanwhile, bocce players gathered for a brief information and instruction session before beginning a 12-team tournament. Bocce was added to the event two years ago to expand the tournament to non-golfers, allowing even more alums to partake in the day of community building.
The afternoon of play ended with a networking hour, reception, dinner and raffle.
“The networking session was one of the highlights for me,” said SEBA alumnus Brian Moresco Professional MBA ’02. “It was a point of convergence. Everyone was together at the same time in one large room so you could step up and talk shop. There were a lot of business cards being exchanged. It was productive.”
Following the networking session, participants were seated for dinner. Dean of the School of Economics and Business Administration Zhan Li and Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs for Saint Mary’s College Beth Dobkin delivered brief speeches expressing their appreciation and gratitude for the continued support of Saint Mary’s.
“We had a great time,” said Moresco. “Success for this event should be measured not only by the number of people that attend, but also the pleasure that we got out of it.
“And every person I saw,” Moresco added, “had a smile on their face.”
Click below to see more images from this year’s tournament: