INDUSTRY HILLS, Calif. — A bit removed from Beverly Hills or Hollywood, The Pacific Palms Resort on a mid-July Tuesday has every bit the celebrity traffic as those famed haunts 30 miles west.
Athletes from virtually every professional sport plus television and film personalities descend upon the Industry Hills Golf Club to take part in the ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic, and in doing so, join The V Foundation for Cancer Research team.
Each of the 50 or so celebrities is assigned to a foursome — which are purchased by companies to support the cause — to form a “fivesome” in the scramble-format, shotgun-start tournament.
The 11th annual event began with personal and poignant reflections from cancer survivor Stuart Scott, and the inspiring words from Jim Valvano’s famous “Don’t Give Up…Don’t Ever Give Up” speech are what players hear as they make their way out to the two courses (dubbed Babe and Ike) of Industry Hills.
Carts are adorned with “Play 4” signs designating who players decided to play in honor of or in memory of, someone who is battling or has battled cancer or another illness.
During the round, electronic scoring in every cart keeps players updated on the changing leaderboard, though it’s shut off for the last few holes to maintain the suspense.
College football coaches ruled the 2011 Classic as Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville’s team posted the best score on the Babe course, while the team with long-time coach-turned ESPN analyst Lou Holtz had the best round on Ike.
Many celebrities return to play each year and even though golf can be serious business for some, particularly to the athletes who are competitive by nature, this day is about so much more.
Birdies and bogeys were far from everyone’s mind as ESPN President George Bodenheimer, who created the tournament, and ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic Director Rosa Gatti presented a check for $1.05 million to V Foundation for Cancer Research CEO Nick Valvano.
The next day, participants would join other famous faces at a more traditional celebrity venue, the Nokia Theatre, to attend the ESPYs.