I know I wrote last week about Bruce Edwards and the annual charity golf tournament--'The Bruce,' as everyone calls it--but we held our fifth one yesterday and I would be remiss if I didn't write about it today.
There are a lot of bad things going on in the world every day but when you get involved in an event like this one--and I'm sure anyone who has ever been involved in a charity event of any kind can attest to this--you really find out a lot about people. The most gratifying thing is that most of it is good.
Many people are aware of Tom Watson's tireless efforts to raise money for ALS research since Bruce was first diagnosed in January of 2003. I've said often that I honestly think Tom knows more about ALS and what's going on in that world than any non-doctor alive. But he's not the only one--by any stretch--who has worked to make this event a success. His pal Andy North always comes and plays a major role in what we do not just by playing but encouraging other guys to come and helping out in any way he can. Last night we had an auction item that was three flags in one frame--one from The Masters, one from the U.S. Open, one from The British Open. Tom had signed them all with the years he had won them.
Obviously Tom wasn't going to get up and tell people that this was--literally--a one of a kind item because there's nothing else like it in existence. Andy volunteered to do it and spoke warmly and emotionally about how proud he was of his friend during this year's British Open. Andy is what my mom always calls a mensch.
So is John Cook. Bruce worked for him a lot during weeks when Tom wasn't working and John, in his own quiet way, is as loyal to Bruce and his family as Tom has been. He's been to every 'Bruce,' regardless of his schedule and last night HE got up to talk about our other, 'Tom,' item: six framed Sports Illustrated covers after Tom won majors--all autographed too. Before handing the microphone back to the auctioneer John said quietly, "I'd like to start the bidding at $7,500--and I'm the bidder."
You could see that Tom was knocked back a little bit by that gesture.
Both those items were put together for us by Neil Oxman. You may have heard Neil's name during The British Open because he now caddies for Tom during odd-numbered years. The reason for that is that Neil is one of the top political consultants in the country and the even-numbered years he buried in work trying to get Democrats around the country elected--something Tom forgives him for. Talk about an odd couple. The two guys love one another and they agree on absolutely NOTHING politically.
It was Neil who first suggested to Bruce in 1973 in St. Louis that he see if Watson, carrying his bag into the clubhouse after returning from his honeymoon, might need a caddy for the week. The rest, as they say, is history. Neil was in law school then, caddying during the summer and he and Bruce had become friends. Bruce's other close friend early on tour was Bill Leahy, who, like Neil, went on to make a lot of money (at Smith-Barney) and now plays a huge role in 'the Bruce,' every year. No way does the event happen each year without Neil and Bill.
I really don't want to turn this into a list of 'thank-you's' because I know how boring they are but guys like Paul Goydos and Billy Andrade and Jim Calhoun and Gary Williams have been amazing. So has Steve Bisciotti--or as I like to call him, the anti-Dan Snyder--who has played every year and has always been the leader in the clubhouse during the auction. I have never met a truly wealthy person less impressed with the fact that he's wealthy than Steve. Like I said, the anti-Dan Snyder.
There's no doubt that putting on an event like this is really hard because there are always crises you can't anticipate. Guys drop out--some for very legitimate reasons like Jim Boeheim tearing ligaments in his ankle and breaking a rib (while playing golf!) and others who just drop out because they decide its too much work to get there. I'd honestly prefer if they just said no in the first place. Somehow, we make due every year and guys often have stepped up to help at the last minute.
The day always has funny moments--my favorite was the year when Gary Williams introduced Mike Krzyzewski as the dinner speaker. Mike's a non-golfer but came to speak anyway. "This is my dream come true," Gary said in his best deadpan tone. "Being the warm-up act for Coach K."
Mike came up and said, "As I was packing this morning my wife said, 'remind me again, where are you going tonight?' I told her, 'I'm going to a golf tournament and I'm being introduced by Gary Williams.' She said, 'no seriously, tell me where you're going.'"
Another year Gary and Roy Williams each agreed to auction off a seat on their benches for the Maryland-Carolina game in College Park. This was 2006, the year Roy had lost his top seven scorers after winning the national championship. "Now you understand," Roy said. "The seat we're auctioning off here is MINE. I'm going to go sit with Gary."
"You can have MY seat," Gary said, which wouldn't have done much good since he doesn't have a seat on the Maryland bench, which makes sense since he hasn't sat down yet in 30 years as a head coach.
The good news from last night is that even in a down economy we managed to raise about $350,000 which will go to The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins. We're now closing in on $3 million after five years of doing this. The better news was that one of the scientists from Packard spoke to the group and told us that there is actually--FINALLY--the beginnings of hope that a cure will be found. You could hear a pin drop as she spoke even though most of us could actually understand maybe 20 percent of what was being explained to us. The day was a lot of fun but that news was really what it was all about.
Am I tired today? You bet. Am I proud to know all of these people (and others I didn't get a chance to mention)? You bet.