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Family carries on Barr's mission

Dustin Barr’s family and friends are raising the bar to the next level to fulfill the late golfer’s dreams.

The past four months have been a challenging time for them. Having lost Barr to cancer in early March, Barr’s loved ones have regrouped to organize the inaugural Raising the Barr charity golf tournament on Aug. 14 at Whitewater.

It’s step one for a full-on charity that aims to support families dealing with major illnesses and, eventually, to foster junior golf in the region.

“Everything else is falling into place,” said Dustin Wilson, tournament chair who was a friend and coach to Barr. “We’re excited but at the same time it’s going to be a really tough day. It feels like we’re organizing something that we haven’t really mourned on yet so it’s been really difficult for everybody. But there’s a lot of people coming together. A big thanks to everyone stepping up.”

Barr passed away on March 4 after seven years battling disease. Less than two weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and plans to hold a celebration of life for Barr with over 100 in attendance was postponed.

All local golf charity or corporate tournaments had been on ice until last week. Wilson said the timing works as virus restrictions are easing and the province of Ontario enters Phase 3 of recovery.

“It’s a big thing that we really wanted to make sure we are respecting the government’s guidelines, but at the same time involve as many people as we can,” Wilson said.

Only 20 teams of four can play at Raising the Barr — that’s less than half of the usual 144-golfer capacity for events of this nature held in a pre-pandemic time. Wilson said up to four sponsors or volunteers are allowed at each hole to meet-and-greet with players, complying with a maximum of 10 people gathered at one hole.

Wilson said they can consider more teams playing in waves of shorter rounds throughout the day.

Presentations can still be made during the post-tournament meal which will be served individually and in Whitewater’s outdoor tent and patio area while practicing social distancing.

The major charities benefiting from the tournament will be Ronald McDonald House and Children’s Wish. Barr was set to turn 25 years old on Aug. 16 — two days after the completion of Raising the Barr. Wilson said the tournament is the first charge of many.

“A part of the Barrs’ wishes was not to just give back to the charities. We’ve created our own non-profit group. In the future we’ll be allocating funds to more local families in need when they’re struggling with life-threatening illnesses,” Wilson said.

“We’re building a business. We’re incorporating a charity nationally. I’ve got some bigger plans for this whole thing,” he added.

Wilson’s inspiration comes from Barr himself. Before his passing, Barr was in the process of creating a video series on golf and his story of dealing with cancer. He also planned to produce a clothing line to raise money for charity.

Barr had kept all his plans and ideas for a school project at Thomas University where he played on the varsity golf team.

Now, it will become a reality.

“We had a bond that not many coaches and students have. Golf gave us that,” Wilson said. “The Barrs are like family to me now. I know a lot of the stuff he wanted to do. He was always big on helping me with my junior camps.”

Interested sponsors and golfers can visit for package information.

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