The preparations are nearly complete for the annual Marian Medical Center golf tournament.

It is officially the 24th annual Leland “Butch” Simas/Felix Fly, M.D. Memorial Golf Tournament — named for two men who dedicated their lives to improving all of Santa Maria, especially the medical center.

If you want to play when the tournament tees off with a shotgun start at 10 a.m. next Monday at the Santa Maria Country Club (there are just a couple spots left), you still have time to call Stephanie Grogan, the Vice President of Philanthropy for Marian Regional Medical Center, at 739-3595.

If you’re already registered, then you should know there’s a new tournament chairman and one new rule for the 2013 edition.

The new chairman is Dr. Alex Harrison — one of Marian’s highly respected cardiologists and golfers (he is a CIF Sac Joaquin Section golf champion, after all).

The new rule — for the first time card-offs will no longer be used to determine the championship foursome in either division; low gross (no handicaps) or low net (with handicaps figured in).

And, in the interest of full disclosure, Dr. Harrison is my cardiologist (he led the team that put three stents into my Iliac arteries two years ago — stents that are a matching set to the five in my right coronary artery).

While I am usually reluctant to delve into my medical history, I mention this because Dr. Harrison says I am responsible for both his selection to the tournament committee and the rule change. A fact to which both Grogan and Marian Medical Center President Chuck Cova both attest.

“I got picked because of your story in the Times last year,” said Harrison during my most recent check-up a couple weeks ago. “Chuck Cova said after seeing what I said in your article that ‘you’re going to be on the tournament committee next year.’ And now I’m the chairman.”

Since you probably don’t have last year’s story at your fingertips, here’s a quick re-cap.

Dr. Harrison’s team tied for the low gross championship then lost in a card-off. Now, a card-off is used instead of a playoff. It takes a lot less time but no one is sure if it’s fair.

Here’s what you do. You pick a nine-hole stretch. Then you compare the scorecards of the two teams for just those nine holes. The team with the better nine is the champion. Of course, that means if you picked the opposite nine holes that would give the other team the title. You might as well just flip a coin.

And, for the last two years, the Marian low gross winner was determined in a card-off.

After losing the card-off at last year’s tournament, Dr. Harrison said, “Card-off — we ought to do a playoff. It would be great just for the drama of it. I’d rather lose a playoff than win a card- off.”

That got the ball rolling.

First Harrison was named to the tournament committee, then he was made tournament chairman.

“And Dr. Harrison has repeated that ‘card-off’ quote at every committee meeting,” said Grogan. “So he’s responsible for us changing the rule for this year. Any tie will be broken by a 100 yard play-in from the 18th fairway.”

Doc Harrison is also one of the tournament’s best doctor/players. His foursome won the tournament his first time out four years ago. He won the long drive contest in the 2011 tourney.

“We hold Dr. Harrison in such high regard,” said Grogan. “He was the chief resident in his class at UCI (University of California — Irvine Medical School). He’s a high quality physician, a phenomenal cardiologist.

“And he has a love of golf. He’s a scratch golfer and was a CIF champion at Jesuit High School in Carmichael and was also on the golf team as an undergraduate at UC San Diego. His patients rave about him. He’s just an awesome doctor. He is a Padres fan — we don’t hold that against him — but if he was a Giants fan, well, then he’d be celebrating two of the last three years.”

Every year, the participants tell me the tournament is a lot of fun.

But there is a serious side to the event.

“I’m actually really honored and excited about my participation on the tournament committee,” said Harrison. “I’m proud of Marian. I always have a good time but it’s more for the cause than winning — although losing by a card-off is bogus.”

The event always raises between $40,000 and $50,000.

“We’re hoping to direct the funds toward the creation of a new cardiac catheterization room which would be our second cath lab,” said Harrison. “Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we’re going to be able to do a cath procedure for heart valve replacement which will be far less invasive than open heart surgery. They’re rolling out that surgery very, very slowly but as it becomes more widely available, we will be able to help more people with the latest technology.”

“Each year the annual Marian Golf Tournament provides much needed funding for important programs and services at Marian.” said Cova. “This year is very special since it is the first time that the tournament’s proceeds will support patient care services in the new Marian Regional Medical Center. We are continuously achieving new milestones in the delivery of patient care, safety and experiences in the new hospital. We continue to be grateful for the tremendous support from our community. As Dr. Dave Carty would have said, ‘This is going to be the best tournament ever.”’


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