Peter Lee Hamilton, a University of Virginia graduate student pursuing both law and business degrees, knows firsthand the pressures that come with achieving high academic goals on Grounds.
So, last spring, during a break from his studies, Hamilton approached two of his School of Law friends with a question: What can we do to drum up a little fun around here?
What they hit upon is an adventure that they hope will turn into a UVA tradition.
Hamilton, Chris Hamborsky and Paul Patton – all potential future lawyers or businessmen – set out to attend a game or match of each of Virginia’s varsity sports teams before they graduate.
Patton, who will walk the Lawn next week, recently became the first of the trio to complete the mission when he cheered on the Wahoos’ men’s and women’s track and field teams at the Virginia Challenge event at Lannigan Field on April 22.
“It was a little bittersweet because it’s near the end of the semester and you’re realizing you’re about to leave Charlottesville and it’s going to be hard to come back and watch these events in the future,” said Patton, who will soon begin working at a law firm in Dallas.
Patton, a Wichita, Kansas, native who received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Dallas, had no reason to follow UVA athletics prior to his arrival on Grounds in fall of 2020. More than 30 months later, he was driving through a torrential downpour en route to a Cavalier women’s golf match in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The transformation into diehard fan has been a natural side effect to Hamilton’s original plan. The main goal of this challenge is found in the name of the group – “Fun Club.”
“Look, we like to have fun. We are just a group of people that like to hang out and go to games and sometimes we’ll go out and have a beer,” said Hamilton, who is on pace to receive his law and business degrees next spring. “Creating this organization is like ‘Seinfeld.’ That was a show about nothing. Well, the Fun Club is about creating a space to do the most simple thing – go to a game and cheer.”
Hamilton and Patton are the co-commissioners of the Fun Club. Hamborsky, who also will graduate next week, is the other member of its leadership committee. Together, the trio communicates with a group of 120 fellow graduate students to try to get as many as possible to show up for a variety of games.
Patton said, at its peak, the Fun Club rolled 25 members deep on a consistent basis, attending every event from UVA football to men’s basketball to field hockey to squash.
“What I realized is that the size of the program has no connection to how fun and crazy it is to watch the game,” Hamilton said. “Volleyball was insane, incredibly electric, really fun. Same thing with wrestling.
“And it’s obviously totally different from going to the basketball or football games, because those are huge, huge stadiums with thousands and thousands of fans. But you get a couple hundred Wahoos in Memorial Gym watching these games, and it’s just really fun. I shouted myself hoarse more at those smaller games than the bigger ones.”
Patton’s journey began with a women’s lacrosse game against the University of North Carolina on April 14, 2022, and, at some point in the recent months, he became destined to finish the job.
“As we were getting closer,” Hamilton said, “we kind of realized, ‘OK, Paul is graduating and he has a real shot to get to all of them.’”
Patton’s biggest hurdle was women’s golf. Unlike the other sports in 2022-23, the UVA women’s golf team was the only one that didn’t have any home events.
For the first time in Fun Club history, the organization had to hit the road.
Patton, Hamilton and Hamborsky drove the night amid what Hamilton described as “insane” weather conditions to Greensboro in order to catch the Cavaliers’ match with Wake Forest University in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament the next morning.
The hazardous ride was worth it. The Fun Club witnessed Cavalier Rebecca Skoler’s dramatic, one-shot win over Wake Forest’s Carolina Lopez-Chacarra to seal a Wahoo upset victory that sent the team to the ACC championship round.
“The jubilation that they felt, I think the three of us down there watching felt a lot of the same,” Patton said. “We were so excited to be on hand for something so cool and such a good moment for the University.”
The team was so appreciative of the Fun Club’s support that they made sure Patton, Hamilton and Hamborsky joined them afterward for a photo.
Following the Greensboro trip, Hamilton said the UVA athletics department reached out to the Fun Club to learn more about its mission and to pick the brains of Patton, Hamilton and Hamborsky for ways to get students engaged in all sports across Grounds.
The Fun Club, which will continue under Hamilton’s leadership next year, is hoping for a lasting legacy.
“I’d like to come back in 25 years and donate to something like this,” Hamilton said. “I’d have to live that long and make enough, but I think leaving behind a tradition that is just fun and is inclusive and is celebratory and is about creating community ... I would love to leave that kind of impact at my school.”