Published June 16, 2009
Volume 17, Number 6

GASIT Makes Golf Fun, Raises Scholarship Money

For almost 40 years, a couple hundred local residents have reserved the first Friday in August for a fun-filled, fund-raising tribute to the American dream.

The George A. Spiliotopoulos Invitational Golf Tournament, or GASIT, was named for, and inspired by, one of Pleasanton’s leading citizens who died prematurely in 1985. Spiliotopoulos came to the U.S. from post-World War II Greece as a 12-year-old to help out in a family business, the Cheese Factory, which he ultimately came to own. “George didn’t speak a word of English when he got here, but he graduated from Amador Valley High School and went to Cal Poly as a dairy management student,” recalls Brad Hirst, of Equity Enterprises, who has long been involved in the event and retains fond and vivid memories of his late friend.

“He was a real American success story,” serving on the City Council, the county planning commission, and numerous city and county boards, Hirst continues. He was also a visionary. “Many of the things we see in downtown Pleasanton today--wide sidewalks, restaurant tables outside, hanging flower baskets--George was talking about in the early 1970s.” He applied some of these principles to his own business,  transforming the Cheese Factory’s original concrete tilt-up building with a new porch and an overhang, adding outdoor seating and a new sandwich menu.

Spiliotopoulos started the golf tournament in 1971 with the idea of “getting a bunch of guys together to have fun” over a round of golf and dinner at the Sunol Golf and Country Club, which was just getting established at the time. Hirst was one of the 100 or so in attendance that first year. It was a great success, and the decision was made to repeat it. After a few years the tournament started making a profit, which George would give away to a charity of his choice, often to students going to his alma mater.

When he died, hit by a car on a rainy night in downtown Pleasanton, his friends resolved to establish a scholarship in his memory and keep the golf tournament going. The newly named GASIT debuted in 1986, and continues to attract a crowd today.  The scholarship program has been formalized and now awards over $70,000 per year in scholarships to graduates of all three of Pleasanton’s high schools. Hirst points out that all the financial assistance is needs based, going not to the “obvious high-achievers” but to students who, like George himself, stand to benefit immeasurably from a helping hand.

This year’s outing is on Friday, August 7, with check-in at 11 a.m., and tee-off at 12:30 p.m. The day culminates with the Scholarship Awards Barbeque at the Alameda County Fairgrounds at 6 p.m. Dinner tickets can be sold separately. For sign up forms or sponsorship information, contact Barbara Starr Buckert by phone at  (925) 600-1966 or via fax at (925) 462-0299.


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