The Chuck Courtney Honorary Scholarship Fund (CCHSF) held an evening of dinner and entertainment Nov. 16 at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club to benefit its Future Legends program. The event helped raise funds and served to further the cause of a program that provides scholarships to local youth.
The funds’ latest recipients are John Michael Horvath, attending St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Okla. — who aspires to be a major league sportscaster — and Sharon Jahng, attending UC Riverside, majoring in biochemistry.
Future Legends is more than a fund, it is a mentoring program, said Vearl Smith, CCHSF cofounder and past president of the Golf Club.
Fourteen couples mentor scholarship recipients. All beneficiaries have come from Pro Kids, a First Tee program in San Diego, although none are required to pursue golf as a career, said Gail Kendall, CCHSF cofounder. Funds have grown 800 percent since the program’s inception in 2011.
To date, seven students have been aided by the Future Legends scholarship, which all started with an idea and the generosity of a local benefactor: Bob Baker.
Smith met with Kendall and Baker recently for an exclusive interview with the Rancho Santa Fe Review to speak about the seeds of the scholarship program.
Minds went back four years ago when an evening event roasted Chuck Courtney, who served as Head Golf Professional at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club for 21 years from 1983-2004.
“Bob said, ‘Why don’t we go ahead and start a scholarship program at the (golf) club and I’ll give you the seed money to get it started,’” Smith recalled. “This gave our club something to focus on other than ourselves. It was a way to give back to golf through the youth,” Smith said.
Giving back to youth is not new to Baker. He grew up in Los Angeles and comes from humble roots — which he never forgets — and with his current business success comes a commitment to help those less fortunate.
Stating that his direction “comes from God,” Baker went on to share his story of survival and his faithful commitment that charted the course of his life since his time in the army during the Korean War, often dubbed the “forgotten war.”
“I was in 26 patrols,” recalled Baker, who was assigned to a line gun in an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon. “Our mission was to patrol and find out where the enemy was and try and bring back prisoners ... I was shot or killed over nine times,” he quipped.
A major eight-day battle was staged from June 10-18, 1953. “Before that battle I volunteered to go on a raid. We knew that this battle was coming to Outpost Harry, it was just a matter of when,” Baker recalled.
That battle has since been made into a video documentary, funded by Baker — “Hold at all Costs” — to help keep the memories alive about the Korean War.
During that battle, there was a life-changing turning point for Baker as he fought the Chinese enemy. An American soldier ran across him, “and right in front of me he took three slugs that were meant for me,” Baker said.
The next morning after the second night of battle, Baker and his squad went out on a final patrol. “I knew I was going to die that night and I knew that I’d been on so many patrols, my luck had to run out sometime ... and so I made my peace with God. I said, ‘If I’m going to get through this, I’ll do anything you want me to do.’”
Ultimately, the battle of Outpost Harry would not only save Seoul from being recaptured, but would also save Baker.
After this experience, Baker stated, “I had another shot at life. I grew up very poor, so now I am fulfilling my promise.” That promise was to give back to his community, resulting in donations to charity of about $20 million to date.
Baker started Courtesy Chevrolet in Mission Valley in the 1960s, went to Indianapolis for 12 years, then came back to Southern California, where he headed more than 20 dealerships.
He has lived in Rancho Santa Fe for 37 years and today he has maintained six of those dealerships — managed by his son — located within 100 miles of Rancho Santa Fe, a community that he calls “a rainbow in a big city.”
To learn more about Future Legends and the nonprofit Chuck Courtney Honorary Scholarship Fund, visit http://chuckcourtney hsf.org.