Friday, February 23, 2024 Feb 23, 2024
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New cars, caddies from Hooters, trips around the world- they’re all part of the game.
By Jocelyn White |

Dale Hansen has one. So do Norm Hitzges and Bill Bates. One dangles a new car as first prize; another offers caddies from Hooters. The celebrity contingent at a few is so celestial that lucky fans can find themselves paired to play with the likes of Troy Aikman and Pat Summerall. At others, the stars may not even show up.

The joke is that there is some sort of celebrity golf tournament for charity every week in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And while that is an exaggeration, it is not entirely off the mark. A lot of local athletes, TV news and sports anchors, radio personalities and entertainment industry names have charity events that use their monikers as draws, identifiers and attention-getters.

While the Dallas Cowboys quarterback now has his Troy Aikman Foundation’s celeb NASCAR race at the new Texas Motor Speedway and former Cowboy Walt Garrison has his longtime fund-raiser for multiple sclerosis at the Mesquite Rodeo Arena, most area celebrities who work to raise large sums of money for charities have chosen to put on golf tournaments. Why? Well, probably because (hey don’t have to wear tuxedos and can drink beer at the same time.

But the glut of celebrity tournaments means that the stakes have been raised. It’s no longer enough to announce an event and expect the public to show up because a big name puts it on. And most celebrities who put their names on charity tournaments hope to make a big splash; they want to raise more cash for their good cause than the next guy. To do this, promoters offer not just celebrity appearances, but prizes- sometimes big ones. The most extravagant tournaments have earned reputations for all the loot available, while others are more modest in their offerings.

Perhaps the most prestigious and the oldest of the dozens of local tourneys is the one that has taken the name of the three brothers from West Texas who may not have found “’All the Gold in California” but have certainly found enough birdies and eagles to keep the Muscular Dystrophy Association happy. The brainchild of Randy Smith, head golf pro at Royal Oaks Country Club, the Gatlin Brothers Golf Tournament and Gala started the local celebrity pro-am craze more than two decades ago.

Since then, this premiere event, now called the Chili’s-Gatlin Golf & Gala, has raised more than SI.5 million for MDA research and patient care. Almost 400 golf enthusiasts turn out each year for the star-studded affair that also attracts sports celebs, country music artists and high-powered business executives. Held in April of this year, die event ineluded a modified scramble for women and a six-man Florida Scramble for the men. The Good-Time Gala featured the Gatlins plus Roy Clark, Kenny Davis, Janie Fricke, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Shake Russell. The final night’s awards ceremony highlighted beer, barbecue, music and all the famous faces. No wonder celeb-filled tournaments have so much appeal…and the hype over which has the most and the best grows exponentially.

Although there are a number of local high-profile types who attach their names to tournaments now and again, there is a group of annual must-do events for those who like to pay and play golf for charity. A group of local athletes, broadcasters and celeb tourney groupies contributed to the following list-and the oft-amusing, sometimes irreverent comments.

Dale Hansen

TheTGI Friday’s Classic/Hansen Style on Oct. 7 will benefit Dallas Can! Academy. Held at The Golf Club at Fossil Creek, it is billed as a party where it’s almost impossible to walk away without a prize. There is a contest on each of the 18 holes; the winner and all his teammates get a prize. There are also prizes for the top five, middle five and last rive placing teams. Plus, there is a guaranteed giveaway of an automobile from Ewing Automotive for the closest to the pin on a par-3 hole, as well as several hole-in-one chances to win top-notch vehicles. Every team gets a celebrity player; wanna play with Troy Aikman? WFAA-Channel 8’s Hansen-never to be outdone-knows lots of celebs and does plenty of arm-twisting to ensure their appearances. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and local sports broadcaster Babe Lauf-enberg says Hansen’s is one of the “most fun tournaments around.” This year’s raised funds will bring the total to the $1 million mark. Off-the-record comment: “Probably the most fun tournament, except for the year [radio broadcaster/author] Jim Dent went skinny-dipping.”

Norm Hitzges

The Dean Witter 7th Annual Norm Hitzges Celebrity Golf Classic, held March 24 at Fort Worth’s Mira Vista Country Club, benefited-as it always does- the Make-A-Wish Foundation of North Texas. The live broadcast of the Norm Hitzges Morning Sports Show on KLIF-AM radio kicks off the day. Longtime Dallas Mavericks broadcaster Hitzges manages to get Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers players to turn out in force, as well as professional wrestler “Angel of Death,” whom Hitzges says can’t play golf but puts on a great show. The tourney has raised more than $250,000 during the past seven years, granting wishes for 128 children. Off-the-record comment: “A whole day listening to Norm, huh? I wouldn’t play in this tournament even if it would help the space program.”

Scott Murray

KXAS-Channel 5’s anointed goodwill ambassador is into the 12th year of the Scott Murray Charity Classic benefiting the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. Held June 3 at Fossil Creek Country Club, the tourney offered individual spots for $300 each: It’s sold-out almost every year thanks to the generosity of the corporate sponsorships that weigh in with anywhere from $2,500 to S 10,000. Although Murray claims “no celebs play,” many of the participants do include local print, radio and TV types. And the honorary celebrity chairman is none other than Byron Nelson. A player receives a tote or gym bag at check-in and then at each hole gets an item to place in the bag- from hats to shirts to golf balls to gloves. Prizes are crystal and pewter bowls with auction items including trips to sporting events around the world. In its dozen years, Murray’s tour has raised $1.3 million. Also coming up: the first annual Scott Murray/Marriott Classic, which will benefit the Children’s Miracle Network. It will be played in the fall and the proceeds will go to the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth. Off-the-record comment: “The only celeb tournament I’ve ever played in where one year the celeb [Murray] didn’t show up.”

Gloria Campos

JCPenney Wednesday’s Child Benefit Golf Tournament has a heavy-duty celeb host committee including Dallas Cowboys special teams member Bill Bates, KRLD-Radio’s Jody Dean, world-class rodeo star Dave Appleton and LPGA founder Ma-rilynn Smith. But it is WFAA-Channel 8 news anchor Gloria Campos whose name is front and center, thanks to her Wednesday segments focusing on adoptable children. Held April 18 at the Hyatt Bear Creek, the benefit offered team prizes on both courses for first through fourth places. There were also hole-in-one prizes including cars and cash. Celeb players have ranged from Troy Aikman to Dick Butkus to Charlie Waters to Ed Marinaro. As for the dollars raised, this tourney is a heavyweight, taking in $95,000 this year. Off-the-record comment: ’’Great tourney, great course, great cause-but there are so many players, it just takes too long to play.”

Bill Bates

Dallas Cowboy Bill Bates is alongtime favorite on the local community and charitable cause scene. His Bill Bates/Payton-Wright Ford Charity Golf Classic takes place each May at The Trophy Club and benefits the Bill Bates Foun-dation for Kids. Of course, many of his peers from the Dallas Cowboys-like Jason Garrett, Mark Tunei and special teams coach Joe Avezzano-can be found on the links, playing along with the participants. Prizes range from autographed Cowboys and Mavericks memorabilia to a $ 1,700ergonom-ically-designed leather BodyBilt chair, Bates himself plays, of course; Nancy Payton says he is a “kamikaze golfer who plays to win.” Total funds raised comes to $40,000. Off-the-record comment: “Good tournament…liked it better last year when they had tequila shots on the course.”

Clarice Tinsley

KDFW-Channel 4 news anchor Clarice Tinsley held her 5th Annual Golf Tournament benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation at Bent Tree Country Club on May 4. This year’s special guest celebrity was LPGA champ Kelli Kuehne. Players received a shirt, cap, towel and other assorted goodies. Individual player fee is $250. Tinsley says she’s really not a golfer but got involved when her stepson, Steve Giles, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. In fact, the JDF Golf Classic began when Ron Samples Jr. saw his 18-month-old son diagnosed with diabetes. Tinsley brings in other familiar faces from local media and sports venues to play in her tournament as well as those who care about the cause. Officiais from JDF did not care to state how much money was raised this year. Off-the- record comment: “Look for the format of this tourney to change: It’s been going for I five years, and it’s just not bringing in enough money. Too many of the players are comped.”

Kevin McCarthy

The longtime KLIF-AM talk-show host held his 4th Annual Tournament for the American Heart Association at Stonebridge Country Club in McKinney on May 19. The typical Florida Scramble is always sold-out weeks in advance. The individual player fee is S150. This year a special pre-tourney golf clinic was held by five-time PGA TOUR winner D.A. Weibring. Also on hand for the tournament each year is Fox Sports’ Pat Summerall. One thing that McCarthy is proud of is the tourney’s Pete Dye-designed course at the club; the USGA says it is the eighth hardest course in America. The gross this year was $27,300 with a net proft of $17,000; net for the three-year period totals nearly $50,000. Off-the-record comment: “Gee, six hours on a golf course with David Gold…what fun.”

Dunham & Miller

The morning show team from The Ticket (KTCK-AM) will see its third annual benefit for Special Olympics get under way Aug. 26 at Tour 18 in Flower Mound. Last year’s tournament sold out far ahead of time-even with morning and afternoon shotgun starts. Deejay George Dunham played high school golf, and partner Craig Miller is a one-year rookie. Attending last year’s event were D.A. Weibring, Kelli Kuehne and Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk. Although the tournament is notorious for being played in the heat of the North Texas summer, Dunham says mischievously, “When you’re hot, you’re hot.” Last year, the event raised $5,000. Off-the-record comment: “Hooters caddies? I don’t think so….”

Brian Jensen

WFAA-Channel 8 sports anchor/re-porter Brian Jensen has an annual tourney benefiting Bryan’s House (for children with HIV and AIDS). The Brian Jensen Bryan’s House Open Golf Tournament draws 220 players from local media and sports celebs to top executives from companies like Columbus Realty Trust. This year’s seventh annual event will be held at Stonebridge Ranch in McKinney on Sept. 8 with tickets priced at $300 for individuals. Especially exciting is the 1997 Gala Party coming up Sept. 2 that will feature Grammy Award-winning country music artist LeAnn Rimes. Jensen is a low-key sort, but the proceeds of his tournament are anything but: Last year alone the tournament grossed $200.000, putting S 100,000 in the Bryan’s House coffers. The seven year total-$300,000. Off-the-record comment: “This is the tournament to watch- it’s really starting to take off!”

Chip Moody

Yet another WFAA-Channel 8 news Anchor has one of the area’s longest running golf tournaments for charity-and one that’s raised more than $800.000. Chip Moody’s Tenth Annual Pro-Am Classic benefiting the Chip Moody Child Care Fund and Endowment at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas was played June 23 at Brookhaven Country Club. This well-organized tournament consisted of teams of four amateurs and a professional competing in a best-ball format using full handicap (maximum 21).

There are typically 300 players from the Dallas business community competing for merchandise; the consensus is this tourney has some of the best goody bags. This year, each player received a commemorative shirt and a crystal rendition of a driver’s head etched with the logo for the 10th anniversary. Best tournament story: Basketball great Wilt Chamberlain was playing and local TV crews were following him around. As the big man was hamming it up for the cameras, he sank a 65-foot putt. Needless to say the team, the photographers and the spectators went crazy. As for Chamberlain, he coolly commented, “I must like the pressure.” Off the record comment: “It’s hard to compete with this tournament-it gets the sympathy vote- kids with cancer and Chip Moody with his own personal health battle.”

“Pudge” Rodriguez

The Texas Rangers catcher’s Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez Charitable Fund Golf Classic provides scholarships to Hispanic students and helps children stricken with cancer. Coming up Sept. 10 at Fossil Creek in Fort Worth, the tournament is expected to turn out plenty of celebrities, especially from the sports realm. {With all the concern over Rodriguez’ contract negotiations, it may get even more attention this year.) Players last year included Bobby Witt, Geno Petralli, Gib Lewis. Tom Grieve, Kevin Elster and Juan Gonzales as well as Tom Rafferty. Goody bags include all kinds of golfing accessories and Texas Rangers paraphenalia. Last year the tournament raised $42,000; this year’s goal is 575,000. Off-the-record comment: “One year I saw Kenny Rogers shoot really wild of the tee and almost hit a fan in the head. So he gave the guy an autographed ball.”

Timm Matthews

KTVT-Channel 11 sports anchor Matthews saw his tournament get underway at Buffalo Creek on April 21. The event-the 11th Annual Channel 11 Tom Rafferty-Timm Matthews Golf Tournament-supports the programs at Meadowview School, a private school for children with learning disabilities. Two hundred and eighty-eight golfers from all parts of North Texas showed up for the competition. The net proceeds after 11 years come to about S400,000. Off-the-record comment: “Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk did surprisingly well….He plays as well as he talks.”

Jody Dean

KRLD-Radio’s main morning man says he got involved with the Hope Cottage Tournament, now in its fourth year, because he is adopted. Each fall the tournament is held at a different course. This year’s event will be held on Sept. 8 at the Eldorado Country Club in McKinney. Dean claims the event is totally underwritten and usually has about 150 players. “This isn’t really a celebrity tournament,” he says. “Although various Texas Rangers team members and Dale Hansen have played, it’s mostly just folks.1’ Entry fee is S250, and Dean’s combative style works well in beefing up interest for his namesake event- over the years it has raised more than $120,000. Off-the-record comment: “Call this one the traveling supper/progressive dinner tourney.”

The Dallas Stars

Teeing off this year in the fall will be the first annual Dallas Stars Bonnie Blair Golf Classic benefiting the American Brain Tumor Association. The Sept. 22 tournament at Hackberry Creek Country Club will be co-chaired by Stars general manager Bob Gainey and Blair, five-time Olympic gold medalist for speed skating. The Dallas Stars will provide 30 celebrities, and Blair will play along with five fellow Olympic athletes. Look for the Stars’ Mike Modano to be front and center; he won the Celeb Pro-Am at the GTE Byron Nelson Classic in May. Off-the-record comment: “Just what we need…another celeb golf tournament.”

SO THE LIST OF TOURNAMENTS GROWS, AND the celebrities and competitions multiply. “There is an amazing commitment of time and energy on the part of local celebrity types to charitable causes in the area,” says CNN (and former KDFW-Channel 4) sportscaster Paul Crane. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it anywhere else.”

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