Birch Golf Classic Tees Up Community Caring


Clockwise from top left: Team Birch Equipment (with Jake Locker, far left); Some of Carole Garguile’s team of volunteers with Sarah Rothenbuhler, far left; 2017 winning team Dunkin & Bush; Team/sponsor Mills Electric (with Ryan Stiles, 2nd from right).

By Dave Brumbaugh

When does writing a check with a few zeroes at the end make you smile? Perhaps when it:

  • Goes to truly deserving nonprofits that make a difference with people facing heart-breaking challenges.
  • Gives you the opportunity to golf at one of Northwest Washington’s top courses.
  • Connects you with an amazing array of local people in business, education, entertainment, law enforcement, and sports.

That’s the recipe for the Birch Golf Classic set for Sept. 6 at the Bellingham Golf & Country Club. For the last three years Birch Equipment in Bellingham has orchestrated the Birch Pro-Am, teaming up with local businesses to raise more than $750,000 for Whatcom Hospice.

The event has a new twist this year. Birch CEO/Owner Sarah Rothenbuhler restructured the format, working in concert with former NFL quarterback Jake Locker, Paul Twedt with Northwestern Mutual, and Jessie Evenson, who is Birch Equipment’s Director of Employee and Customer Programs. They transitioned from the previous pro-amateur format to a “community-amateur” event.

Instead of teams pairing only with a pro golfer (several still will participate), the teams will select a “celebrity” from the local region. Some have marquee names—like Locker and former NFL kicker Michael Koenen, and internationally-known comedian Ryan Stiles (Uptown Theater owner and star of “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”)—and others include entrepreneurs, politicians, and executives from the area.

“We’re all so busy with life and work, and the tournament will provide a great day for meeting and connecting incredible people whose paths don’t always cross, but they should,” Rothenbuhler said. “You really get to know people when you spend a day golfing and having an early dinner together.

“True admiration and friendships have developed with people, businesses, and services we only have had time to read about. So this year a spin on the pro-am platform will shine a light on 30 people doing amazing community work through their careers and community involvement.”

The teams will select what’s called a “Duo”—their 5th player from the community list, plus an enticing prize package put together by a variety of sponsors (e.g., entertainment packages like a Rod Stewart concert, Seattle pro sports events, wine and dining experiences, golf clubs, etc.).

“A lot of time and energy is going into this,” Locker said, “because we believe in people truly coming together for their community. Not just for the prize benefits, but because they actually care about people. That’s what’s been happening with this tourney, and we’re now bringing it to another level.”

Beneficiaries this year: Northwest Youth Services (NWYS) and Engedi Refuge.

Northwest Youth Services impacts more than 1,000 youths every year in Whatcom and Skagit Counties, providing a safe home for more than 200 young people between ages 13-24 who have run away, been displaced, or experience homelessness due to trauma, neglect, abuse, or exploitation.

Engedi Refuge is a restorative program for women who have survived sex trafficking and prostitution. The refuge provides relief from poverty, addictions, abuse, and complex trauma often associated with sex trafficking.

“The Northwest is in a homeless epidemic, and our I-5 corridor is one of the busiest sex-trafficking areas in North America,” Rothenbuhler said. “This tournament connects community businesses who want to shine a light of awareness and financial support on services that make a difference in transitioning our kids and those trapped in human trafficking to a network of better options.”

At press time the Birch Golf Classic lineup had not filled out completely. For updated information on players, prizes, and getting involved, visit or check its Facebook page.  


Team entries in the Birch Golf Classic 2018 have selected a “Duo”—a 5th player on the team selected from a list of prominent community members (rather than a traditional choice of a professional golfer), plus a prize package. The tournament takes place Sept. 5 at the Bellingham Golf & Country Club.

Following is the list of 5th players and the prize package that completes the Duo for participating four-person teams:

  • Carmen Dolfo, Women’s Basketball Coach & Administrator WWU + Private Wine Cellar Dinner at Lighthouse Bar & Grill for 8
  • Chelsea Long, Vice President, Acme Lift + All Inclusive Sounders Suite Tix w/ Pre-Match Field Access for 5
  • Chris Jorgensen, Director, Aerotech Golf + Miura Wedges w/ Aerotech Shafts
  • Craig Welty, PGA Pro, Skagit Golf & Country Club + All Inclusive Mariners Diamond Club for 4
  • Dale Zender, VP of Operations, CAO, CFO, PeaceHealth NW + Sold-Out Leonetti Merlot & Cabernet Wine
  • Senator Doug Ericksen + Private Tour of 22 North with Happy Hour for 10
  • Doug Thomas, President & CEO, Bellingham Cold Storage + 12 Seat Mariners Package
  • Jake Locker, Co-Owner, The Locker Room, Former NFL Quarterback + $2,500 Shopping Spree at Birch toward Rental / Retail
  • Janelle Bruland, President & CEO, MSNW + All Inclusive Seahawks Sideline Tix for 4
  • Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Nyhus + The Locker Room Fitness Club Annual Membership & Swag for 4
  • Jeff Tetrick, Career & Technical Education Director, Bellingham Public Schools + Dinner Tab at Dirty Dan Harris Steakhouse for 8
  • John Blair, General Manager, Dunham Cellars + All Inclusive Sounders Suite for 8
  • Michael Koenen, Co-Owner, The Locker Room, Former NFL Punter + Guided Private Waterfowl Hunting Excursion for 4
  • Mike Montgomery, PGA Pro, Sahalee Country Club + Front Row Rod Stewart Seats (Oct.) for 4
  • Ryan Stiles, Upfront Theater Owner, Actor, Comedian, Producer + Upfront Theater Package
  • Steve Card, Director of Athletics, WWU + Sold-Out Leonetti Merlot & Cabernet Wine
  • Steve Lawrence, MHS Teacher & President, Meridian Education Association + Private Cicchitti’s Pizza Truck for 50 people
  • Tony Larson, President, Whatcom Business Alliance + 4 Jeroboam (3 Liter) Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Wes Herman, Owner, Woods Coffee + Exclusive Woods Coffee Product Package & Tour

For more information about the tournament, go to for a full slate of sponsoring teams and a summary of the nonprofit organizations benefiting from the event (NW Youth Services and Engedi Refuge).