Union County

Grayson Lea Memorial tourney gives 4 students scholarships

Grayson Lea Memorial tournament scholarship recipients this year were, from left, Ben Bullard, Michaela Larrison, Connor Correll and Bryce Bullard.
Grayson Lea Memorial tournament scholarship recipients this year were, from left, Ben Bullard, Michaela Larrison, Connor Correll and Bryce Bullard. KIM BECKNELL WILLIAMS

Four Piedmont High School students will receive scholarships through funds raised during the Grayson Lea Memorial golf tournament.

This year’s recipients, and the colleges they plan to attend, are Ben Bullard (Appalachian State); Bullard’s twin brother, Bryce Bullard (N.C. State); Conner Correll (Wingate University); and Michaela Larrison (N.C. State).

“They are all very bright and all did great things on the soccer field as well,” said tournament founder Craig Lea.

Approximately 140 golfers participated in the 15th annual Grayson Lea Memorial golf touranment at Olde Sycamore Golf Club in Mint Hill on May 21.

The tournament, spearheaded by Craig and Jane Lea, was started after their son, Grayson Lea, died in a car accident on his way to Piedmont High School.

“We struggled through his first birthday in 2000 without him and decided we needed to do something,” Craig Lea said. “So I went to the Foundation for the Carolinas that summer and opened the fund, and began raising money at the first golf tournament on his birthday in May 2001.”

The tournament is always held close to Grayson’s birthday on May 23.

Grayson Lea played soccer his freshman year at Piedmont High School. The tournaments raise money for scholarships given to selected soccer players who are seniors at Piedmont High in rural Union County.

“We started with two scholarships in 2001 for $1,000 each. We now give three or four each year worth $1,000 per student per year, for a $4,000 scholarship,” Craig Lea said. “To date we have given out 50 scholarships totaling $119,000, not counting this year’s four winners.”

The requirements for recipients are that they play soccer at Piedmont High for at least two years and are in good academic standing.

“They also must show passion for the game, great hustle and good sportsmanship,” Lea said. “Some have gone on to play in college, but it is not required.”

One recipient who won the award four years ago, Jade Montgomery, also was recognized at this year’s tournament.

Montgomery played soccer for four years at Wingate University and was an All-American her last three years. She said she is considering playing soccer abroad.

At the tournament, as the students waited to see who would win the award, Lea teased that he only had two scholarships to give and was about to announce the winners.

He then said they were all deserving, so all four would receive scholarships.

A large group of golfers was recognized at the event for having played in every tournament over the last 14 years; however, one, Mary Earhart, was unable to play this year due to a foot injury.

“This tournament has become a reunion of friends, classmates, family friends and scholarship winners,” Earhart said. “My family looks forward to being here every year and celebrating the life of an extraordinary young man who will never be forgotten.”

Lea said that there may be questions about the tournament’s future, but not the scholarship.

“We have done this tournament in Grayson’s memory for 15 years. It is a lot of work to put it together each year, and Jane and I are getting rather worn out,” Lea said.

“The Grayson Lea Memorial Scholarship Fund is approaching self-sustaining, and we hope to be able to continue scholarships well into the future.”

The Leas’ son Peyton, 26, however, said he’ll keep the tournament going if necessary.

For now, Grayson continues to be remembered, and four prospective college students have scholarships in his name.

Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Kim? Email her at kimbecknellwilliams@gmail.com.