By Marion Filler and Kevin Coughlin
The local golf community came out in force on Monday to 1776 by David Burke, Morristown’s flashy new restaurant/ golf arcade, to help a little girl get out of the rough.
Christina Thompson, owner of a women’s golf boutique in Denville, organized the fundraiser for 1-year-old old Grace Godfrey, child of pro golfer Jane Park and husband Peter Godfrey, a professional caddy.
One day in July, while on the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour with her parents in Dallas, Grace developed seizures that caused severe brain damage.
Thompson estimates 200 people packed 1776 for Grace’s benefit. The restaurant fronting the historic Morristown Green is so new, it hasn’t even had a ribbon-cutting. (That’s on Friday.)
The total raised for Grace’s care still is being tallied. Tickets to the invitation-only event were $150. Silent auction items ranged from golf vacations, tournament tickets and Ping clubs to framed photos of Arnold Palmer and Bill Murray, in Caddyshack.
Guests included new LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux, United States Golf Association CEO Michael Whan, and Ann Mackey, president of the Coastal New Jersey Chapter of the LPGA Amateur Golf Association.
Golf Channel commentators Jerry Foltz and Karen Stupples also were on hand, along with 22 pro golfers, on a day off between tournaments in Atlantic City and Caldwell.
Some of them showed off their swings in the restaurant’s six Topgolf simulator suites. Each rental pod has a wall-sized video screen depicting the world’s top golf courses. You whack a ball against the screen, and a computer calculates the trajectory and animates its flight.
Pros and the bravest of the duffers took turns, between sips of wine and bites of tuna tartare, amidst deafening cheers and groans as ball after ball sailed into the simulated rough.
Mulligan time: Shanking a simulated drive at ‘Saving Grace’ benefit. Video by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com:
Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty, who came with his wife, Mary, said their son Ryan is the golfer in the family. “I’m a hacker,” the mayor said.
Celebrity Chef David Burke, opening his 17th restaurant, made a similar confession.
“I don’t golf. I’m going to learn. I have golfed. But never trust a chef that golfs that good!” Burke joked, in front of an orange hued-wall decorated with bricks of salt.
On the Green! LPGA pro Emma Talley tries Topgolf simulator at 1776 by David Burke. Video by Marion Filler for MorristownGreen.com:
Thompson, owner of Golf4Her, teamed with LPGA golfer and Wayne native Marina Alex to create the fundraiser.
“Jane was one of my ambassadors for Golf4Her for the last 10 years,” Thompson said of Park, 34, who turned pro in 2007.
The 1776 venue got booked thanks to Thompson’s acquaintance with Sue Vorcheimer, director of sales and events for the restaurant and former spouse of co-owner David Vorcheimer.
Staging a golf-related event as the restaurant’s first charity function felt appropriate, said partner George Schneider of Morristown.
“It fits perfectly,” he said.
Park was at home in Atlanta caring for Grace. Thompson video-chatted with her after the fundraiser.
“She was over the moon, beyond grateful,” Thompson said on Tuesday.
Peter Godfrey, Grace’s dad, did attend the Morristown event.
“My wife’s career is over,” said Godfrey, who is British. “But I’m still working. I’ve been away this month and that’s very hard.”
Their families have pitched in to help — Godfrey’s parents from London, and Park’s aunt and brother from Los Angeles.
Introduced by mutual friends about a decade ago, Park and Godfrey have been married for four years.
Since Grace has come home from the hospital, she has shown small signs of improvement.
“It’s more than we thought possible. Two days ago, she could lift her head. That’s huge,” said Godfrey. His daughter’s prognosis is uncertain.
“I have no idea, but they know she has a good amount of damage. It’s tough,” he said.
Doctors don’t even have a diagnosis yet. They suspect Grace’s autoimmune system overreacted to a virus and attacked her brain.
“They think it was a parvovirus, a generic kind of virus,” said Godfrey. “Most kids would have the sniffles or a runny nose from it. But for whatever reason, she did not.”
An online fund drive started by LPGA veteran Tiffany Joh has raised $117,000 so far for Grace’s care.