Friday, August 10, 2012

Killebrew-Thompson golf returns Wednesday

Pitcher Morris, golfer Weiskopf are new celebs

Express Staff Writer

During last year’s Thompson Memorial, Chris Berman (right) hams it up with actor and tournament announcing sidekick Arte Johnson (center), while Ketchum-based jeweler and tournament participant Barry Peterson enjoys the show. Photo by Willy Cook

It's now called the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial golf tournament but the objective is the same—raising funds for leukemia and cancer research.

Georgie Fenton of Ketchum, tournament director for 18 years, expects a full field of nearly 200 golfers for the 36th annual tournament Wednesday, Aug. 15 through Saturday, Aug. 18 on the Sun Valley and Elkhorn golf courses.

The four-day event begins Wednesday with an 8 p.m. benefit concert at Sun Valley Pavilion by Nashville-based country music quartet Lonestar featuring lead vocalist Richie McDonald and lead guitarist Michael Britt.

Reserved seating priced from $50 to $250 (premium) is sold at Sun Valley Recreation Center in Sun Valley Village, online at or at 622-2135. Gates open at 7 p.m. Premium ticket buyers can attend a cocktail reception with Lonestar's musicians from 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday on Pavilion Terrace.

For good reason, there's a strong Minnesota presence among celebrities in this year's Killebrew-Thompson tourney.

Celebrity entrants Jack Morris and Frank Quilici have durable ties to the Minnesota Twins baseball team. And the Minnesota Twins association is where the tourney originated.

During last year's tournament, the board of directors of the Thompson voted to honor the memory of baseball Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew by adding the Killebrew name to the tournament title.

Originally from Payette, Idaho, Killebrew died of esophageal cancer in Arizona May 17, 2011 at age 74. He co-founded the Danny Thompson Memorial golf tournament with business partner Ralph Harding in 1977. It has been held at the Sun Valley resort ever since.

Killebrew belted 573 home runs in 22 major league seasons for the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins. Infielder Danny Thompson was a Twins teammate of Killebrew.

After Thompson died of leukemia in 1976 at the age of 29, recently retired major leaguer Killebrew and Harding founded the tournament to raise money for leukemia research.

In 35 years, the Thompson Memorial has raised over $12 million for cancer research, split between University of Minnesota Cancer Research Center in Minneapolis and St. Luke's Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI) of Boise.

Fenton added that fundraising totals are always leveraged in matching funds and grants to produce a much great number. For instance, she said the $12 million total over 35 years has been leveraged to more than $25 million. "They (the hospitals) realize more than we actually give them," she said.

Net proceeds for leukemia research from last year's tournament were $700,000. Since MSTI opened in 1969, it has become Idaho's largest provider of cancer care services. The Thompson golf tournament has become an integral part of MSTI's fundraising operation.

The Minnesota connection

First-time tournament golfers Quilici and Morris are integral to Twins baseball history.

Morris, 57, from St. Paul, Minn., was a fiercely competitive right-handed pitcher for 18 major league seasons from 1977-94. His 254-186 pitching record, 3.90 ERA, 2,478 strikeouts and four World Series rings have made him a Hall of Fame candidate, unsuccessfully, 13 times since 2000.

No Twins fan who recalls Morris' amazing 10-inning, 7-hit shutout of the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series will dispute the credentials of the five-time All-Star with a devastating split-fingered fastball. Morris earned the 1991 World Series Most Valuable Player award.

The big debate when the 2013 Hall of Fame announcement is made next January is whether first-time entrants Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa will earn enough votes on their first tries. Last year Morris obtained his highest percentage of votes, 67% of 75% needed. He could sneak in if controversial Clemens, Bonds and Sosa underperform.

Morris also won World Series titles with Detroit (1984) and Toronto (1992-93). He attended Brigham Young University before being drafted. He has worked as a color analyst on Twins broadcasts.

Quilici, 73, from Chicago, Ill., was a light-hitting infielder for the Twins from 1965-70. He was probably best known for, as a rookie infield replacement, getting two hits in one inning against Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series.

Becoming a Twins coach in 1971 after his playing days ended, Quilici became the youngest-ever Twins manager at age 33 in 1972. He replaced Bill Rigney and was succeeded by Gene Mauch after the 1975 season. During that time Quilici managed both Danny Thompson and Killebrew.

Quilici became a Twins broadcaster and a big supporter of youth sports in the Minneapolis area. He lives in Burnsville, Minn. and was anxious to get back to playing golf after receiving a kidney transplant May 14.

Professional golfer Tom Weiskopf, 69, from Massillion, Ohio and jazz pianist/singer/songwriter Frankie "The Real Deal" Randall, 74, from Clifton, N.J. are the other first-time celebrities in 2012.

A rangy 6-3 ball striker from Ohio State University, Weiskopf turned pro in 1964 and amassed 16 PGA Tour victories. He won the British Open at Royal Troon in 1973 and was a four-time Masters runner-up.

Weiskopf captured the 1995 U.S. Senior Open but is best known in recent years for his golf course design. His courses include Troon North Club in Scottsdale, Az. and The Club at Seven Canyons in Sedona, Az.

Randall, born Frank Joseph Lisbona, is called "The Real Deal" because he brands himself the last link to crooner Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack."

A protégé of Jersey-born Sinatra, Randall for years performed "Tributes to Sinatra" and is a Casino Legends Hall of Fame inductee. He appeared on Dean Martin's television variety show and has been a mainstay on the casino stages at Atlantic City, N.J.

Fenton said she's pleased with the sponsor turnout of 38 companies and groups. US Bank remains the top-level "Diamond Sponsor." Sinclair Oil is "Platinum Sponsor." Sun Valley Resort is "Host Sponsor." J.R. Simplot Co., Washington Companies and OneWest Bank are "Silver Sponsors."

A social and fund-raising highlight is the 18th annual Killebrew-Thompson Memorial live and silent auction Friday, Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. in the Limelight Room of Sun Valley Inn. Auctioneer is Larry Flynn.

Auction items include trips to the Kentucky Derby, Pebble Beach and Hawaii, diamond studs, a motorcycle, golf cart and a trip to the 2012 Ryder Cup golf tournament.

Celebrities, politicians due

Joe Washington, Lute Olson and Bobby Grich are among the sports figures expected here for the Thompson Aug. 15-18.

Other well-known figures expected are baseball players Jim Nettles and Mike Sweeney; ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman; actors Arte Johnson and Kevin Sorbo; and musicians Don Felder and Muzzie Braun.

Thompson politicians expected in 2012 include 89-year-old Bob Michel from Peoria, Ill., who has missed just one of the 35 Thompson tournaments. Michel served the Illinois 18th District in the U.S. House of Representatives for 38 years from 1957-95 and was never part of the majority party.

That fact, along with Michel's manner, caused the Bradley University graduate to strike political bargains in order to get things done and gave him a reputation of bipartisanship that is rare today.

The House Minority Leader from 1981-95 was also the frequent winning pitcher in Republican vs. Democrat baseball games. He plans to golf with two of his four children, Scott and Robin, during this year's Thompson.

Others politicians expected:

Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers (R-Ky.); Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Id.); Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Id.); Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.); Sen. Jim Risch (R-Id.); and tourney newcomer Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.), named the most fiscally conservative member of the U.S. House of Representatives by the National Taxpayers Union in 2011.

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 10th annual Arte Johnson "Room for Improvement Award" goes to the next-to-the-last place team. Johnson, 83, 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 schedule:

Wednesday, Aug. 15: Benefit concert featuring Lonestar at 8 p.m., Sun Valley Pavilion. From 1-4 p.m. a private NetJets open aircraft display at Atlantic Aviation, Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey.

Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 15-16: Registration 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on the Sun Valley Inn Limelight Room terrace and promenade. Practice rounds today and Thursday on the Sun Valley and Elkhorn golf courses.

Thursday, Aug. 16: Western-style welcome barbecue 6 p.m. on the Trail Creek Cabin grounds. Tournament pairings distributed there.

Friday, Aug. 17: First 18-hole round of the Thompson Memorial tournament, with 9 a.m. shotgun starts at Sun Valley and Elkhorn. Ladies luncheon, fashion show and fly fishing demonstration at 11:30 a.m.

Cocktails and auction dinner at 6 p.m. in the Limelight Room of Sun Valley Inn. The 27th annual Chairman's Award will be revealed.

Saturday, Aug. 18: Final 18-hole round of the Thompson Memorial, with 9 a.m. shotgun starts on the Elkhorn and Sun Valley courses. Awards reception 4 p.m. on the Sun Valley Club deck. Ladies have a nine-hole scramble golf tournament today at 10 a.m. at Bigwood Golf Course.

Details about celebs

( Returning to the Killebrew-Thompson Memorial is retired major league baseball player Mike Sweeney, 39, from Orange, Ca. The first baseman and designated hitter played 13 seasons from 1995-2007 for the Kansas City Royals, where he was captain. Five-time All-Star Sweeney finished up with Oakland, Seattle and Philadelphia, where last fall he made his only post-season appearance.

Sweeney batted .297 for his career with 215 homers and 909 RBI. He set a Royals club record of 144 RBI in 2000 and was second in the American League in batting at .340 in 2002. A devout Catholic, fluent in Spanish, he was known as one of the nicest guys in sports.

For eight years Sweeney has been married to the former Shara Nettles, daughter of Jim Nettles, another Thompson golfer this year. They have three children. The couple has also established the Mike and Shara Sweeney Family Foundation with themes of love, family and youth. The foundation sponsors "The Sween Team," which invites youth ministries to attend major league baseball games.

Other celebrities in 2012:

( Bobby Grich, 63, 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, 58, 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, 65, 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.

( Lute Olson, 77, a native North Dakotan and graduate of Minnesota's Augsburg College, was the 25-year head coach of the University of Arizona men's basketball program—winning the NCAA Division 1 title in 1997. His career coaching record was 781-280 prior to his retirement in 2008. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002.

( Kevin Sorbo, 53, from Mound, Minn. is an actor best known for playing the lead role in "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys," in the mid-1990s. He most recently appeared in the movie "Soul Surfer" in 2011.

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