2015 PFA Golf Classic and Fundraiser Honors Proud Princeton Past

  • August 11, 2015

After having the championship ring escape the Tigers the previous year, Michael Hirou arrived at camp with one idea in mind: win the title. Twenty-five years later, Hirou and his 1991 teammates, who made that goal at reality with a 1989 Championship, returned on July 13th. They celebrated their 25th anniversary and remember that moment as one of their best Princeton experiences at the 24th Annual Princeton Football Association Golf Classic and Fundraiser.

1990 Captain Hirou was the honoree at this year’s event, selected from the ’91 class as a way to honor the Princeton football past. Kenny Samuel, who retired as Sergeant from Princeton Public Safety after 49 years, was also recognized and thanked for his longtime service and valued contribution to the football program.

The Golf Classic is the Princeton Football Association’s single largest fundraiser. Many different graduating classes were important to making the fundraiser successful, including Class of 1980, the Class of 1994 and the Class of 1993 as Leadership Class Sponsors. The Classes of 1987, 1988, 1990, 1996, 2004, 2005 and 2006 were other major sponsors of the event.

“We’re so thankful from our PFA prospective for individuals and classes who ban together to help us fundraise,” Steve Simcox, president of the PFA, said. “Our purpose is to make players’ experiences the best experience possible while they are here and to further the mission of Princeton Football. We want to advance the preservation of our history and when you think about the legacy of Princeton Football, it’s a proud, proud legacy. Part of what we’re doing is to add to that.”

The event began with lunch, followed by golf with a shot-gun start.

After attending the PFA Golf Classic for the last 20 years since his graduation in 1980, Steve Reynolds came in second in the Senior Division with his former teammates Pete Bastone, Dave Chandler and Dan Bennewitz.

“These outings are wonderful, as they allow us all to connect and to reminisce with a group of fellow alums of the program who can uniquely relate to our experiences and share our love of Princeton football,” Reynolds said.

Matt Whalen ’88, also attended both the golfing and dinner portion of the event. His team returned to an old golfing rivalry with his past ’88 teammates, Jason Garrett, Pete Milano and Tom Criqui, who lost to them again this year.

“It is one of my favorite weekends of the year and a group of us get together the day before and golf a practice round and have a barbecue,” Whalen said. “I think this was a great idea when we started it a few years ago and is helping us connect to specific classes that may have not been that involved before.”

After the golfing festivities, the alumni met for a cocktail hour, where Kenny Samuel was recognized for his contributions to the football team during his Princeton career.

Samuel was familiar with Princeton before he began working for the university. While he grew up in Virginia, he would stay with his mother’s family in Princeton every summer once he turned 10 and visit with his aunts and uncles living in town.

Kenneth Samuel was recognized for his contributions  to Princeton Football at this year's PFA Golf Classic.

Kenneth Samuel was recognized for his contributions
to Princeton Football at this year’s PFA Golf Classic.

After meeting his future wife, Myrna, Kenny graduated from Luther Jackson High School in 1963 and came to live with his uncle in Princeton. He and Myrna married in 1964. Only two years later, Samuel heard of an opening as a security officer from his friend at the university, which started his long career in Public Safety.

“My time with Princeton University, I’ve enjoyed meeting students, faculty and working with my co-workers,” Samuel said. “I’ve seen Princeton go from an all-male institution to co-ed in 1969/1970. During my tenure here at Princeton, I’ve built bonds with students that continue to this day.”

Not too long after in 1969, Samuel would be promoted. He became a proctor, a sworn officer involved in student discipline, a moment he says was his most memorable work experience at Princeton.

Samuel came to have close ties with those he met at Princeton, some who could not imagine the university and especially the football program without him. He became an honorary member of five different graduation classes: 1974, 1976, 1981, 1983, and 1986. In what Samuel said is one of his most cherished moments, he received the President’s Achievement Award in 2006. The award recognizes staff members for their “exceptional dedication, outstanding contributions and exemplary service”, according to Princeton Human Resources.

“Proctor Kenny was a true friend to the entire program and all of its players,” John Melkon ’90 said. “Whether it was his mentoring in the weight room, his vocal support on the sidelines, or the magnanimous way he looked out for us on campus.”

After 49 years, there’s no doubt that Samuel will miss the university, his work with Public Safety and with Athletics, especially as he came to cherish the relationships he built with students and co-workers.

“I’ve enjoyed my years working with the Athletic Department, my years with the football program gave me a chance to mentor and have a one-on-one relationship with many of the players,” Samuel said. “I feel privileged that I’m being honored on this occasion.”

The players welcomed him warmly at Springdale Golf Club. Many of them had memories with Kenny, of his dedication to the football program and how he helped them avoid trouble on the rare occasion.

“He is a valued friend to all Princeton students, but has a special bond with members of the football program,” Reynolds said. “It was a pleasure to see the heartfelt reactions and genuine admiration demonstrated by the former players, coaches and administrators to Kenny when he was presented with a commemorative game jersey.”

The event included a dinner portion of the evening, where Head Coach Bob Surace also announced updates on the team’s international trip in Japan, recruiting and what to expect for the 2015 season. The auction was also held during this time. All the proceeds raised from the outing and auction will directly benefit the Princeton Football Association.

Hirou was also honored during this part of the evening. As he celebrated his 25th anniversary, Hirou remembered the game against Yale in his junior year, a step toward the ’89 Championship.

Undefeated in league play and entering the 9th game of the season, the late season face-off against the Bulldogs and the Ivy Title hadn’t happened in nearly two decades. Over 45,000 people were in attendance. The screams of the fans were loud enough that when the Tigers erupted onto the field, Hirou was unable to hear his teammates next to him. The game was lost 14-7, but Princeton headed on to face Cornell and Harvard.

A win against both got Princeton a share of the title. Hirou was named 1st team All-Ivy.
Mike Hirou '91 was honored as he celebrated  with his teammates on their 25th Anniversary  of 1989 Ivy League Championship

Mike Hirou ’91 was honored as he celebrated
with his teammates on their 25th Anniversary
of 1989 Ivy League Championship

“Being a part of the ’89 Championship team was the best part of my football career at Princeton,” Hirou said. “I believe we set the stage for following classes to win titles and bring Princeton back to the top of the league, where we always belonged. Commitment, character, hard work and believing in the program and in each other has really put Princeton Football on great trajectory.”

Hirou was a key component of the defense during his time at Princeton. He played as a defensive back. Hirou was also named All-Ivy in 1988 and 1990.

“As a teammate of Mike’s, I still remember some of the big stops he made in important games like Penn and Harvard back in our day,” Melkon said. “He just seemed to have a nose for the football, and he played with all his heart.”

More than just their success in ’89, the class of 1991 had a lot to celebrate at the golf outing.

“Coming back in our 25th year since graduating is hard to comprehend – all that time has passed but the memories are still very clear,” Hirou said. “I am so blessed to be a part of the Princeton Football family and can’t wait to share some great times with my brothers of ’91 and the surrounding classes. Seeing so many good friends and sharing great memories about that season was remarkable.”