By Delinda Lombardo on
Legendary athlebrities from football, baseball, basketball and hockey, gathered under the hot desert sun on June 7 and 8 to raise money and awareness for several very worthwhile causes. The Pro Sports Team Challenge Golf Tournament at the Eagle Falls Golf Club at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino (near Palm Springs, California) settled the debate as to which sport has the best golfers, while competing for a total purse of $250,000 for chairty.
Team Basketball hit the greens for the USO. Led by NBA great Charles Barkley and featuring his buddies Clyde Drexler, Jason Kidd, George Gervin and Kenny Smith, the team made every swing count in efforts to help comfort our hardworking military. While Barkley was psyched for the event, he didn’t have high expectations for his team.
“One of the highlights of my life was [when] the USO took me to Iraq, Kuwait, Dubai,” said Barkley during the event. “I got to visit with some of the troops. So it’s a great organization and, um, unfortunately we’re not going to win a lot of money for them because my team [Basketball] sucks!”
But the event wasn’t marred by the lack of golf talent, as inspiration was the forerunner of the competition.
“Many athletes, like Charles Barkley and John Elway, have spent their holidays, vacations and precious free time to thank our nation’s heroes for their daily sacrifices," said Kathy Mejasich, the Vice President of Corporate Alliances for the USO. “The difference they make in the morale of the troops is more than just palpable, but energizing and inspiring.”
Team Basketball also spent some time with 20 year-old Brandon Akey, who was flown out from Ohio to play with the big boys after winning an online competition.
“I’m only 20 years old and this is only the second time I’ve been out of Ohio – the last time I took a trip was to Florida when I was a kid, and suddenly I’m here playing golf with these guys.” Brandon played in the Pro-Am with basketball legend, George Gervin. “He was such a good guy. Whenever we hit bad shots he was really cool and supportive, he said ’that’s all right, we’re a team, it’s like basketball.’”
Also inspiring was Team Football, who didn’t stop grinning all weekend as they polished their putters in the hope of earning a hefty donation for Operation Kids. Led by Team Captain Drew Brees and including LaDainian Tomlinson, John Elway and Michael Strahan, the team brought style, smiles, class and sass to the event.
“I just love helping kids,” said NFL good guy Michael Strahan. “When they see any player come to spend some time with them, their faces light up and they share their hopes and ambitions and dreams with us. I can’t even begin to tell you how good it made me feel.”
Rest assured, Strahan was speaking from the heart. There wasn’t one child in attendance that the big guy didn’t stop for. In fact, all the players involved were constantly chatting with young starry-eyed kids as they tousled their hair before signing footballs, programs, posters, and even jerseys being worn by ‘soccer moms’.
Team Hockey, led by cancer survivor Mario Lemieux, chose Hockey Fights Cancer as their beneficiary. Lemieux, Brett Hull, Grant Fuhr and Pierre Larouche went into the competition with an edge, seeing as they all have notorious golf skills.
During Friday’s Pro-Am event, one lucky sweepstakes winner enjoyed a round with the big boys. Matt Lesage, who has little golf experience, was a bit nervous going into the competition when he learned he was playing with Team Hockey. “I played with Pierre Larouche in the Pro-Am,” he said, “Mario Lemieux, Pierre, Grant, all those guys were so nice. Pierre is a great guy and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him. At first, I was a bit skeptical on how the athletes were going to act towards someone like me, not being a big golfer, but they were all class acts and they couldn’t have been nicer.”
While Lesage was hyped to play golf, he was also keen on the fact that this was for charity, “I heard Team Hockey talking about Hockey Fights Cancer, and a lot of people in my family had cancer so it made me really happy to be part of it. All these guys inspired me.”
Team Baseball captain Ozzie Smith led George Brett, Vince Coleman and Bret Saberhagen around the greens as they swung away for the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) in efforts to help the families of players who have fallen on tough times.
“B.A.T. provides assistance to members of the ‘baseball family’ who are in need…We help take care of health care, medical, housing, burial, utilities, household expenses and prescriptions,” wrote Erik Nilsen of B.A.T. “It’s an honor to be nominated by Ozzie Smith, a Hall of Famer who truly understands the history of our organization.”
The big question remains though – which team brought home the first place $100,000 prize for their charity and which teams split the remaining purse? You’ll have to watch the Fox Sports Net broadcast on Saturday 6/28 and Sunday 6/29 to find out. It was a great competition, filled with lots of trash talking and love coming from the participants, but in the end all of the charities came out winners thanks to the dedication of these mighty mighty fine men.
Special celebrities lending their time to the event included Hercules star Kevin Sorbo, actor Dennis Haysbert (The Unit_), Actor/producer Matthew Hatchette (_The Take), and comedian Martin Short provided some comical poolside entertainment during the VIP party.
If you’d like to make a donation to any of the ProTeam charities named, you can still visit the Team Challenge website and sign up as a ProCoach – $1.00 from each participant will go to the charity of your choice.
Copyright © 2008 Look to the Stars