L-R: Jason Witten, Dan Marino, Corey Pavin, Scott Niswonger,
Peyton Manning, Scrubs the Bear
JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. -- More stars than ever before participated in the 2012 Niswonger Children’s Hospital Golf Classic
on June 25, and that translated into more money than ever from the fundraiser tournament – over $400,000.
Current NFL greats Peyton Manning and Jason Witten, NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino and PGA stars Corey Pavin, Loren Roberts and Larry Mize were among 25 celebrities who played a round of golf with teams of local donors on a hot, sunny day at The Blackthorn Club at the Ridges. Proceeds from the Monday golf tournament and the Sunday night auction will support radiation oncology services for patients at Niswonger Children’s Hospital.
“It truly is a special event any time you come out, play some golf with some great people and have some great fellowship, and also raise money for a great cause,” said Manning, playing in his third Niswonger tournament.
“It’s just amazing to see the impact you have on these kids,” Witten said, “not only while in the hospital but as they go on and live out their dreams.”
Each foursome was paired with a celebrity player for the tournament. Interest in the event reached an all-time high because of the long celebrity list, which included Marino for the first time ever. Pavin participated last year and returned this year with two of his PGA friends, Roberts and Mize, plus PGA caddies Eric Schwarz and Tim Mork. Shortly before tee-off Monday, Pavin again hosted an informal putting clinic on the practice green.
Manning’s move from the Indianapolis Colts to the Denver Broncos, after missing the entire 2011 NFL season with a neck injury, has heightened the attention on him. Before tee-off, the Niswonger Children’s Hospital’s main benefactor, Greeneville businessman Scott Niswonger, introduced Marino by saying with a mischievous grin, “We have a backup quarterback with us today. Dan, thank you very much for being here.”
“Thanks, Scott,” Marino said amid much laughter. “I’ve never been called a backup, but if I’m a backup to Peyton, I’m glad to do it. It’s always good when you can raise money to change kids’ lives in a positive way, and have fun doing it. Everybody here should be very proud of what you guys are accomplishing. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
The University of Tennessee was represented by former coaches Bruce Pearl and Phillip Fulmer as well as current head basketball coach Cuonzo Martin and several former Vol greats. Virginia Tech also had a presence, led by head football coach Frank Beamer and College Hall of Famer and NFL great Carroll Dale.
This year the golf tournament added a gallery area for the public to view the teams as they played Hole No. 8. Fans who were there got a chance to see the stars up-close for autographs and photos.
“Every single celebrity stopped by there to see the people and sign autographs,” said Patty Bolton, event director for the Mountain States Foundation
. “We hope that will grow for next year.”
Bolton said planning for the 2013 tournament has already started.
“We’re trying to find ways to grow the event for next year,” she said. “The celebrities thought it was a great tournament, and a lot of them have already committed to coming back. They’re bringing more big names, and we’ve already got some sponsors committing in a big way for next year.”
Bolton also praised former Virginia Tech and NFL tight end Steve Johnson, now a successful Bristol real estate developer, with helping to bring in big names like Marino.
“He really stepped in and helped us this year, and he’s going to get involved with us in a big way next year. There’s going to be a lot of excitement.”