Like the state of Idaho in which it has been played since 1977, the Danny Thompson Memorial golf tournament is tough, durable and generous, indeed, it has been called "The Tournament with a Heart."
The 34th annual Danny Thompson Memorial returns to the Sun Valley Resort next week, having soared over the $10.5 million fundraising mark last year with a further goal of exceeding $11 million for cancer/leukemia research in 2010.
Georgie Fenton of Ketchum, tournament director for 16 years, said she expects about 184 golfers during the four-day tournament that runs Wednesday, Aug. 18 through Saturday, Aug. 21 on the Sun Valley and Elkhorn golf courses.
They come to enjoy Idaho's great late-August weather and the company of other generous sponsors, but mostly the Thompson Memorial participants come to contribute to a worthy cause started in Sun Valley by native Idahoans Harmon Killebrew and Ralph Harding in 1977.
Fenton said, "Due to the participation and support of nationally known celebrities and sponsors, the tournament has not only raised in excess of $10.5 million that has gone directly to leukemia and cancer research, but over the years these funds have been used in various matching grant programs leveraged to the million dollar level annually."
She added, "Even in this economic climate, our supporters have been loyal and have fortunately remained active in the event. We expect to have another great year. And we're very proud to be associated with the two recipients of our funding."
In 33 years, the Thompson Memorial has raised over $10.5 million for cancer research, split between University of Minnesota Leukemia Research Foundation ($5.4 million) and Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI) of Boise ($5.2 million).
Last year's proceeds were $540,000. Since MSTI opened in 1969, it has become Idaho's largest provider of cancer care services.
The tournament is named for Danny Thompson. He was a Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers infielder who died of leukemia in 1976 at age 29. Co-founder of the tournament is Payette native Killebrew, a Hall of Fame slugger from Idaho who was Thompson's teammate.
A highlight is the 17th annual Thompson Memorial live and silent auction Friday, Aug. 20 in the Limelight Room of Sun Valley Inn. The auctioneer will be Larry Flynn.
The auction items run include trips to the Kentucky Derby, Tuscany, Australia and Hawaii, jewelry of the first order, a golf club fitting from The Kingdom,
ATV and motorcycle, custom golf cart and a trip to the 2011 U.S. Open at the Congressional Country Club, Blue Course, in Bethesda, Md., where it was also held in 1997 and 1964.
Celebrities, politicians are due
Killebrew, Brooks Robinson, Joe Washington, Jerry Kramer and Bobby Grich are among the sports figures expected here next week.
Other well-known figures expected are baseball players Bill Buckner and Jim Nettles; ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman; actors Kevin Sorbo, Arte Johnson and Lyle Waggoner; and musicians Muzzie Braun and Don Felder.
US Bank is the tournament's highest-level "Diamond Sponsor" and has also stepped up to sponsor Wednesday's Don Felder "Hotel California" concert in Sun Valley.
Gold Sponsor is DSY Consulting. Silver Sponsors are Corbett Industries, J.R. Simplot Co., Apogee Enterprises Inc. and Washington Companies. Premier Sponsors are Qualcomm, St. Luke's MSTI, Sun Valley Resort and Textron.
Thompson politicians expected in 2010, six Republicans and four Democrats, are the following:
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (R-Ky.); Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Id.); Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Id.); Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.); Rep. Joe Baca (D-Ca.); Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Id.); Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.); and Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.). Peterson, a first-time participant, is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
Details about the celebrities
Brooks Robinson, 73, of Little Rock, Ark., is considered baseball's all-time greatest third baseman. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 1983 after a matchless 23-year career with the Baltimore Orioles.
The friendly 6-1, 190-pounder had numerous major league fielding records, including 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.
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.
Bobby Grich, 61, a Michigan native, came out of Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif. He played 17 American League seasons for Baltimore and the California Angels from 1970-86 and logged a .266 career batting average in 2,008 games. The 6-2, 190-pounder was a six-time All-Star and four-time Golden Glove winner at second base.
Joe Washington, 56, a native of Crockett, Texas, was a two-time All-American running back at the University of Oklahoma, a program that won national titles in 1974-75 with Washington doing this thing. He had a successful National Football League career and won a Super Bowl title with the Washington Redskins.
Jim Nettles, 63, of San Diego, is the younger brother of New York Yankees third sacker Graig Nettles. Lefty Jim Nettles played for the Minnesota Twins from 1970-72 and ended its six-year major league career with Oakland in 1981.
Killebrew, 74, belted 573 homers in a 22-year major league baseball career from 1954-75. The 1969 American League MVP and 13-time All-Star known for his tape-measure blasts was the first Minnesota Twin making the Hall of Fame, in 1984.
Bill Buckner, 60, from Vallejo, Ca., had 2,715 hits and lifetime .289 batting average in a 1969-90 major league baseball career. Jerry Kramer, 74, a Montana native and 1954 Sandpoint High School graduate, came out of the University of Idaho as an offensive lineman and played for two Super Bowl winning teams with the Green Bay Packers.
This year's new entertainment celebrity, Lyle Waggoner, 75, was a ruggedly handsome actor and model from Kansas City best known for his roles on television's "Carol Burnett Show" from 1967-74 and "Wonder Woman" from 1975-79. The first centerfold for Playgirl magazine in 1973, Waggoner lives near Jackson Hole and spends time as a sculptor.
Spectators are welcome
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.
The tournament format is four-person two-best ball over two days. Prizes are awarded to the six lowest scoring teams and to the low individual net and gross scores for men and women. Long drive and closest-to-the-pin prizes are also awarded.
In addition, the eighth annual Arte Johnson "Room for Improvement Award" goes to the next-to-the-last place tournament team. Johnson, 81, a Michigan native, was an actor for 51 years known for his 1968-73 comedy role in the "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" TV show.
Here is the tournament schedule:
Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 18-19: Registration from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. 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. 19: Western-style welcome barbecue at 6 p.m. on the Trail Creek Cabin grounds. Tournament pairings distributed there. Practice rounds all day. Idaho Sen. Crapo plans to greet Thompson supporters from 9-10 a.m. today.
Friday, Aug. 20: First 18-hole round of the Thompson Memorial, featuring 9 a.m. shotgun starts at Sun Valley and Elkhorn. Non-golfers have a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the River Run Lodge lower mezzanine and can ride the new gondola to The Roundhouse Restaurant on Baldy.
Cocktails and auction dinner at 6 p.m. in the Limelight Room of Sun Valley Inn. The 25th annual Chairman's Award will be revealed.
Saturday, Aug. 21: 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 the new Sun Valley Golf Course clubhouse. The ladies hold a nine-hole scramble golf tournament today at 10 a.m. at Bigwood Golf Course.