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|The Knuckleheads (L to R) are Mike "King Zog" Cotto, Dick Conn, John Daly, Jack McCarty and Sal Mentesana. (Courtesy of golfclassic.org)|
There are only a few great celebrity charity golf events.
Sure, there's the American Century event at Lake Tahoe. I've never played, but from watching it on TV and hearing from friends who have played in it, it is truly top of the line.
But the tops, as far as golf and making a difference in lives of others, is the Jimmy V Celebrity Golf Classic, played at Pinehurst Resort this year Aug. 8-10. All the proceeds go to cancer research. For the past 14 years, we've raised more than $1 million each year for cancer research.
To play, it's $6,000. It's worth it, believe me. You'll have two days playing and enjoying the golf courses at Pinehurst Resort - one of my favorite golf spots in the world. The U.S. Amateur will be there two weeks after we leave, and you can see where Payne Stewart won his last U.S. Open.
But the V is more than fabulous golf.
The tournament and The V Foundation were started by Jim Valvano, the late basketball coach who died of cancer. Yes, Jim's N.C. State Wolfpack pulled off an incredible national championship win in 1983. And yes, Jim had one of the quickest wits. He once asked a ref if he could be tossed from a game for what he thought. The ref said no. So Jim said, "I think that call stunk!" Jim got T'd up. If you join me at the V, you'll get those stories and so much more.
Most of us remember Jim for his famous speech at the first ESPY Awards only a short time before he died in 1993. "Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever," he said. "I thank you and God bless you all."
We hear that speech and there is rarely a dry eye. Jimmy V also offered us some great advice in that speech that I never get tired of hearing.
"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."
His passion and emotion fuel the tourney that draws some of the biggest names in entertainment and sports. Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley are usually there. Dick Vitale and Mike Krzyzewski are regulars. Chris Berman and Stuart Scott from ESPN help host the festivities. Tru TV's Jack Ford offers his emcee skills as well. "All My Children" star Cameron Mathison has many appearances as well as two presidents - Dennis Haysbert and Gregory Itzen - from Fox's "24." And there are many more.
There's no guarantee that all of those names will show. But you can count on me. I'm honored to have played in this event since 1997. If they keep asking me, I'll be there.
To show you how prestigious "The V" is, when I was named the host of Real TV my close friend John O'Hurley, then of "Seinfeld" fame, called me. He never said congratulations or good job. He merely said, "Good. Now we can get you into the V."
For me, the V is now a family event. My wife Teri and I have gained some of our closest friends because of our years at the V. The year wouldn't be complete without spending time with Jim's family and now their extended families. We consider the director of the event, Frank McCann, and his wife Pat, close friends we don't see enough. We go back to Raleigh and visit our two volunteer hosts - Rick and Annie Meadows - who are two of our closest friends now.
But our immediate V family is The Knuckleheads.
In 1997, the V was our first ever celebrity golf event. Fortunately, someone in the V office was a big fan of Real TV. So, Teri and I were on good behavior; we wanted to be asked back. We made sure to wear our name tag and appear at every event. The first event was the pairings party. As we entered, a photographer took our picture. Behind the photographer were two men.
The first man had strawberry blonde hair, a weak mustache, and a strong Boston accent. "Hey look, Sal, John Daly's here," he said. "I didn't know John Daly, the pro golfer, was going to be here."
Sal, the gentleman next to this loud-mouthed New Englander, was a distinguished olive-skinned man who was nattily dressed. Sal smiled but went along with the jesting.
As the photographer finished clicking, I said to Teri. "Oh great. Two jerks from Boston. Let's just walk past them and maybe they'll go away."
But the loudmouth with the accent and no "R" in his alphabet wouldn't relent. "You still hitting it a long way," he said moving toward us. "You look different. You dyed your hair black."
Not following my own advice, I walked toward this middle-aged hooligan and looked at his name tag. "Are you Jack McCohhhh-tee from Boston College?"
"No," Jack McCarty said proudly, "I went to Providence."
"You did?" I was dumbfounded. "I was class of '78."
"I was '69. Hey, Sal, this knucklehead went to P.C. too."
Eleven years later, Jack McCarty and Sal Mentesana are two of my best friends. Included in that friendship is our third buddy, Mike Cotto, lovingly known as King Zog, nick-named for the last reigning king of Albania, where Mike's ancestors are from.
These three are affectionately known - by our friends and family - as our Knuckleheads. Included in that group are another set of friends from the South: Dick Conn, a former defensive back in the NFL; and Coach Steven Patton, head football coach at Gardner-Webb University. They're affectionately known as the Neck Reds, as dubbed by King Zog.
There are times we have to pull over the car because the driver is laughing too hard and is worried about causing an accident.
The stories from the V - with these guys - are too many to tell and too long to describe here. Let's just say this. There are times we have to pull over the car because the driver is laughing too hard and is worried about causing an accident.
One great moment occurred a few years ago. I became good friends with Daniel Rodriguez, the singing cop from the NYPD. He became known for singing at the 9/11 funerals. Placido Domingo took Daniel under his wing and Daniel is now an opera star. Daniel is also an unassuming gentleman who is a delight to be around.
I convinced the folks at the V to bring Daniel in for the entertainment. The first year, the Knuckleheads and our gang went out to dinner. I brought Daniel. Now Sal, whose many talents are basketball coach, great dresser, and intellectual, also has a decent singing voice. However, Sal's knowledge of singers was not good.
After dinner and a few drinks, Sal thought the restaurant had decent acoustics. So he started singing a little doo-wop. Daniel said to him, "That's pretty good. Try this." And he offered another doo-wop rendition you might have heard on the street corners in New York in the 1950s. Sal tries it and suddenly he and Daniel are singing a duet.
Then Sal tries something more challenging and it was pretty good. But Sal also notices the range and richness of Daniel's voice. As Sal is singing with him, he looks at me. He doesn't say it, but he's asking me, "Who the hell is this?"
By that time, Daniel and Sal had the whole table serenading the restaurant. And none of the patrons minded. In fact, they were transfixed; it was that good.
The next morning on the golf course, as Daniel is about to sing his rendition of the national anthem, Sal says to me, "If I had known who Daniel was I would have never started singing like that."
It's one of the tales we tell each year. They might get embellished and they might have new twists, but they never get old.
So, come meet my V Family and share some laughs with the Knuckleheads and the Neck Reds. It's a weekend you won't forget.
If you want to join me and others - including my V family - at the V, click here or call Anna Jackson at (919) 319-0441.
July 2, 2008
John Daly, known internationally as host of Real-TV and House Detective (HGTV), is a long-time Las Vegas resident. He sports a 6.9 handicap and has played every golf course in Vegas. You can read John's golf blog here
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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