Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Golfers will take aim to fight leukemia

At Danny Thompson tournament for cancer research

Twenty-nine years and counting.

Those are the basic numbers in the ongoing quest of the Danny Thompson Memorial Golf tournament to stamp out leukemia. Next year it will be 30. And it seems like yesterday it was in its infancy.

Called "a tournament with a heart," the annual Sun Valley golf tournament is done for a good cause.

Tournament director Georgie Fenton of Ketchum said, "When the Danny Thompson Memorial began, the chances of recovery from leukemia were low. Today the recovery rate is almost 70% with even great hopes for the future."

The tournament runs from Wednesday through Saturday, Aug. 24-27 on two Sun Valley golf courses. Fenton expects 230 to 240 golfers this year including the usual list of well-known celebrities and names from the world of politics.

First-year celebrity participant James Sikking (Lt. Howard Hunter) will join fellow "Hill Street Blues," cast member Ed Marinaro (Officer Joe Coffey) in the field of the 29th annual Thompson Memorial clambake. The "Hill Street Blues," ensemble TV cop drama ran from 1981-87.

Big Apple native Marinaro, 55, was one of college football's greatest running backs, playing for Cornell University back in 1971. He also was the first rookie to start for Minnesota Viking head coach Bud Grant in the National Football League.

The 2005 Thompson will also host a two-time Stanley Cup winner in Craig Ludwig, 43, the hard-hitting 6-3, 210-pounder from Rhinelander, Wisc. He came out of the University of North Dakota and played 1,256 National Hockey League games from 1982-99—winning Stanley Cups in Montreal in 1986 and Dallas in 1999.

It should be a good weekend.

Played exclusively at Sun Valley since its founding in 1977, the Thompson Memorial returns Wednesday through Saturday, Aug. 24-27 on the Sun Valley and Elkhorn Golf Club championship courses.

The tournament is named for Danny Thompson, a Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers infielder who died of leukemia in 1976 at 29.

Last year's Thompson take for cancer research was $550,000, down slightly from the three-year streak from 2001 to 2003 of proceeds hitting $650,000, $600,00 and $630,000.

In 28 years, the Thompson Memorial has raised $7,305,500 for cancer research, split between University of Minnesota Leukemia Research Foundation ($3.78 million) and Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI) of Boise ($3.58 million).

Since MSTI opened its doors in 1969 it has become Idaho's largest provider of cancer care services.

Once again, a tournament highlight will be the 12th annual Thompson Memorial live and silent auction Friday, Aug. 26 in the Limelight Room of Sun Valley Inn.

You name it, it's on the auction list—a $20,000 gold Rolex watch, a Kentucky Derby trip, golfing in Scotland, a NASCAR event at Daytona Beach, Fla., a villa in Tuscany, fly fishing trips and a pricey, shining Enduro Touring BMX motorcycle.

"The auction has become our biggest single moneymaker at the tournament," Fenton said.

All the big fund-raising numbers and loyal support represent quite an accomplishment for a late-August celebrity clambake started in 1977 by Idaho legislator Ralph Harding and baseball slugger Harmon Killebrew.

The celebrity list is dotted with athletes, legislators and entertainers.

It starts with one of the Thompson Memorial's most supporters—Arnie Ferrin of Ogden, Utah.

Ferrin, former University of Utah athletic director, was a four-time basketball All-American for the Utes from 1944-48.

As a freshman, Ferrin (13.2 ppg) won the Most Outstanding Player award in Utah's 42-40 (OT) victory over Dartmouth in the 1944 NCAA championship game before 15,000 fans at Madison Square Garden. Ferrin scored 22 of Utah's 42 points. He played three seasons for the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers from 1949-51, helping the Lakers to two NBA titles. Ferrin went back to college and earned his degree from Utah in 1966.

The sports celebrity list includes:

· From baseball: Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, Duke Sims, Bill Buckner and Paul Hartzell.

· From football: Ed Marinaro, Jerry Kramer and Joe Washington.

· From basketball: Jack Marin and Arnie Ferrin. From hockey: Craig Ludwig.

· From ESPN: John Barrett (fly fishing). From the entertainment world: James Sikking, Muzzie Braun and Arte Johnson.

Celebrity, pol details

Bill Buckner, 55, an Idaho resident born in Vallejo, Ca., played 22 major league baseball seasons and 2,517 games for five teams from 1969-90. The lefty hitter, 1980 batting champion, had a career .289 batting average and 2,715 hits and actually legged out an inside-the-park homer at Boston's Fenway Park in his final season of 1990, at age 41.

Salt Lake City's Duke Sims, 64, played 11 seasons as a catcher with Cleveland and four other teams. He batted .239 in 843 games.

On the entertainment side, Los Angeles native Sikking, 71, has a film and television career dating to 1955. He has appeared in TV shows from "Perry Mason," "Combat!," "Ellery Queen," and "Hunter," to, more recently, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and "The Guardian." But he is probably best known as the prickly Lt. Howard Hunter in "Hill Street Blues."

Here are some other celeb details:

One of the best golfers and putters in the Thompson field is Duke basketball All-American Jack Marin, 60, one of the founding fathers of the Celebrity Players Golf Tour.

One-handicapper Marin was a 6-6 forward who graduated from Duke in 1966 and was a 15.0 ppg pro scorer. Marin, who also played for Buffalo and Chicago, was traded by Baltimore to Houston for Elvin Hayes in 1972. He was a two-time NBA All-Star in his 1966-77 career.

Brooks Robinson, 68, of Little Rock, the "Human Vacuum Cleaner," is familiar to any baseball fan with a healthy respect for diamond defense. The all-time greatest third baseman was named to the Hall of Fame in 1983 after a matchless 23-year career with the Baltimore Orioles.

Robinson is a friendly 6-1, 190-pounder whose numerous major league fielding records include a .971 fielding average, best ever for a third sacker. He batted .267 with 2,848 hits in 2,896 games from 1955-77, all with the Baltimore Orioles, which was a major league record.

The 18-time All-Star won the Golden Glove each year from 1960-75 and was baseball's Most Valuable Player in 1964 with career-best .317 with 28 homers and 118 RBI. He starred on the four-time AL pennant-winning Oriole teams that won World Series titles in 1966 and 1970, losing only one game.

Another major leaguer returning is Paul Hartzell.

Hartzell, 51, a 6-5, 200-pound right-handed pitcher from Pennsylvania, started his big league career with the California Angels in 1976 and played on four different teams through 1984. A 1975 Lehigh University graduate, Hartzell has played an important role on the Thompson board of directors and received the 2002 Chairman's Award for exemplary service. He is senior vice president of Data Site Services for Merrill Corporation in St. Paul, Minn.

Politicians on board in 2005, heavily weighted on the side of the House Republican aisle, are:

Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (R-Ky.); Rep. Martin Sabo (D-Minn.); Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.); Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.); Rep. Butch Otter (R-Id.); Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Id.); Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Id.); Rep. Joe Baca (D-Ca.); Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio); Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.); Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.); Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.); and Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.).

Spectators are invited to watch and, when appropriate, ask for autographs. Check the pairing sheets at the golf pro shops to see where your favorite golfer is playing.

Tournament format is four-man two-best ball over two days. Here is the tournament schedule.

· Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 24-25: Registration from 9-6 on the Sun Valley Inn Limelight Room terrace and promenade. Practice rounds all day, each day, on the Sun Valley and Elkhorn golf courses.

· Thursday, Aug. 25: Welcome western barbecue at 6 p.m. on the Trail Creek Cabin grounds. Tournament pairings distributed there.

· Friday, Aug. 26: First 18-hole round of the Thompson Memorial, featuring 9 a.m. shotgun starts at Sun Valley and Elkhorn. Non golfers will have a guided hike, luncheon and fashion show today.

Cocktails and auction dinner 6 p.m. in the Limelight Room of Sun Valley Inn. The 20th annual Chairman's Award will be revealed.

· Saturday, Aug. 27: Final 18-hole round of the Thompson Memorial, with 9 a.m. shotgun starts on the Elkhorn and Sun Valley courses. Awards reception at 5:30 p.m. at Sun Valley Resort golf course.

The ladies will hold a nine-hole scramble golf tournament today at 10 a.m. at Bigwood Golf Course.

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