MORGAN PARK — Chicago Fire Capt. Herbert T. Johnson was often described as a larger-than-life character, so it should come as little surprise that a golf outing honoring the fallen firefighter reflects his enormous personality.
The Herbie Johnson Golf Classic will span 10 courses throughout the Chicago area with upward of 1,000 golfers expected to participate, said Ted Johnson, Herbie's brother.
"It's supposedly going to be one of the biggest golf outings that has ever been run," said Ted Johnson, a Mount Greenwood resident.
The outing begins with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. on June 29. Once all of the golfers have finished playing, a picnic-style reception with grilled steaks will be held from 4-8 p.m. at 115 Bourbon Street at 3359 W. 115th St. in south suburban Merrionette Park.
"This is the third year," Ted Johnson said. "It has never been this size."
Herbie Johnson died while fighting an extra-alarm house fire on Nov. 2, 2012, in Gage Park. To honor his memory, a golf outing was established shortly after his death.
Since its inception, the outing has raised some $30,000. The proceeds go to help struggling firefighters throughout Chicago with little fanfare. A portion of the funds are also directed toward a scholarship at St. Rita High School in Ashburn.
The golf outing drew 380 participants last year and spanned three different courses, said Ted Johnson, who followed his older brother into a career in fire protection.
This year, organizers have partnered with the coordinators of the FDNY 9-11 Memorial Golf Outing in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Herbie Johnson helped plan the event and made many friends along the way.
"He was the only Chicago guy on the committee," said Ted Johnson, himself a 16-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department.
With the help of Kevin O'Brien, director of the FDNY 9-11 Memorial Golf Outing, Ted Johnson sent out some 1,400 letters inviting firefighters and supporters from five different states to participate in the Herbie Johnson Golf Classic.
More than 100 golfers have already signed up for the outing. It costs $125 to participate in the outing and the after-party. Some of the elite courses require a slight surcharge. Those who simply want to enjoy the festivities at 115 Bourbon Street pay $50.
While Herbie Johnson liked golf, the game never really rubbed off on his brother. Still, Ted Johnson is driven to coordinate the annual event to honor Herbie — regardless of his golf game.
"I buy two cases of balls and just hope I have one ball left at the end," Ted Johnson said.
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