Local long-running golfing event ‘much more than a golf outing’

Active-duty and retired Marines, community leaders and civilians came together to participate in the Bare Knuckles Blitz Invitational at North Shore Country Club in Sneads Ferry, Oct. 30.

The Bare Knuckles golf group, which has been around since the 1990s, is a way for Marines, service members and people of the community to get to know one another.

“The whole purpose was to get people off the base and get them to meet people in the community, mainly the leadership in the community,” said John Kopka, a retired Marine colonel who heads up the group. “We have some tremendous individuals that give up their time, talent and treasure to make sure this thing is a success.”

The event is held once a month over the course of several months throughout the year on an invitation-only basis. Some of the event participants have included admirals, generals, wounded warriors, business owners, educators and community members. Participants all share a similar mentality – they want to get to know service members and community leaders both professionally and personally.

As Kopka mentioned, people contribute their time, talent and treasure to the cause.

“This is so much more than a golf outing,” said Jeff Clark, president and CEO of Marine Federal Credit Union, who has participated in the Bare Knuckles group since the ‘90s. “This is a very orchestrated event to continue to foster the relationship between the military community and the civilian community in and around Onslow County.”

“It’s the best tournament I play in, just for the camaraderie and the people,” said Rik Pugh, a retired lieutenant colonel and longtime friend of Kopka. “There is no person I know that does more for the community than John Kopka.”

Golfers in the Bare Knuckles are put into four-man teams with people that they have likely never met in order to facilitate new relationships and connections.

“It’s focused on camaraderie, networking and getting to know your neighbor,” Kopka said. “It’s about who you are, what you are and what you want to give.”

It’s also about integrity, honoring your word and being honest. There’s no complaining allowed, either. Bad weather? No problem. The Bare Knuckles Blitz goes on anyway, unless the course is closed. It’s a tradition that has been carried on for nearly three decades, and is something that touches the lives of all involved.

Two teams shot eight under 64s in the captain’s choice style tournament. Doug Dippold, Tom Siebenthal, Rey Miller-Perry and Roger Brown won first place based on a tiebreaker. The team of Joe Thornton, John Kopka, Tim McCurry and Milt Bartley took second.