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Seven to be honored at Community Sports Hall of Fame celebration

This year's 10th annual Celebration of Sports, to be held at the Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center on Oct. 9, will feature the induction of seven new members into the Community Sports Hall of Fame.

The Class of 2012 includes Lou Chillemi, a softball umpire who served for two decades as a member of the Howard County Umpires Association; Joe Friend, an early proponent of providing enough recreational fields and who helped lay the groundwork for today's field maintenance; Dave Grabowski, a fixture at Rockburn Park, who helped form the Elkridge Adult Athletic Association and oversaw the rapid growth of the Elkridge Youth Organization; Skip McAfee, who rejuvenated the Columbia Intra-Village Softball League which is now known as the Cindy LaRue Co-Rec Softball League; Gus Novotny, whose innovative approach to golf at the Rocky Gorge Golf Fairway helped him earn icon status in the golf range and batting cage industry; the late Norbert O'Donnell, who maintained the fields at Kiwanis-Wallas Park spending upwards of more than 50 hours of week so kids would have a great place to play, and Don Smith, who has been involved in swimming for more than 20 years as a meet official and starter for the Columbia Neighborhood Swim League.

The Community Sports Hall of Fame is administered by the County's Recreation and Parks Department and recognizes those individuals, both living and dead, who have made major contributions to community recreational sports in Howard County. Tickets for the Oct. 9 ceremonies can be purchased at recreation and parks headquarters, 7129 Oakland Mills Road or by phone at 410-313-7275.

The Joey V tournament

I enjoy tracking our young athletes as they progress through the various schools and beyond. One of the earliest athletes with incredible potential was Joey Vennari. At a very young age he could be seen regularly at the various area golf courses in Howard County.

In 1976, Joey had gotten the attention of the golf community not only here but nationally when he was ranked by Golf Magazine as the fourth-best in the country among players age 13 and younger. As a junior at Atholton High School, Joey won the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association boys golf state championship. He followed that up with the Middle Atlantic PGA Junior Championship. While a student at Marshall University, he won the 1987 Maryland State Amateur Championship. Joey Vennari was on his way.

Then at the age of 38, Joey Vennari passed away. That bright future was gone and many of us were stunned by his demise.

In his memory, the third annual Joey V Memorial Golf Tournament Classic will be held at Fairway Hills on Aug. 13. I will always remember Joey as one of the nicest young men I have ever met in and out of sports.

Serve and volley

Some of the area's finest young tennis players will gather at the Wilde Lake Tennis Club July 16-18 for the 32nd annual Columbia Junior Open. Ken Knouse is once again the tournament director and that means a well-run tournament. Ken told me several years ago that he wanted someone else to take over the directorship but since his retirement from his "day job," Ken has decided to stay on for as long as he can. He has been the director since 1999.

The tournament is hosted by the Howard County Tennis Association and will present Peter Finck Awards to the boy and girl who display the best sportsmanship. Those who knew Peter as a player, official and administrator know sportsmanship was one of the cornerstones of his game. Peter passed away in 2011.

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