Group’s 17-under leading at Fortunato

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Russ Simonton, Colter Prescott, Mike Faust and Mark Faust teamed up to shoot a 17-under-par 54 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead over three teams in the championship flight of the 2003 Joe Fortunato Celebrity Golf Classic at Duncan Park.

The Simonton-Prescott-Faust-Faust team had an eagle on the par-5 5th hole, 15 birdies and two pars.

&uot;We played pretty good,&uot; Mike Faust said. &uot;My brother Mark made a lot of shots and a lot of putts. Russ made a lot of putts. Actually, we hit the ball pretty good.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

Three teams are currently tied for second place with scores of 16-under 55: Louie, Doug, Dean and Dwayne Brown; Bailey Howell, Tom Matthews, Wade Heatherly and Harold Moise; and Alan Warren Jr., Bob Birtman, Burney Lummus and Jimmy Hickman.

&uot;Tom, we rode him pretty hard,&uot; Howell said. &uot;All the rest of us made the putts we needed to. We had two eagles, four pars and the rest were birdies. We shot 16-under, so we’re in pretty good shape for tomorrow.&uot;

Howell played 12 years in the NBA, including four with the Boston Celtics (1966-’70), and is a member of the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.

&uot;After I got traded to Boston, my first year there we lost (in the finals, after the Celtics won eight straight championships),&uot; Howell said. &uot;The next two years we won the championship.&uot;

This is Howell’s first time playing in this star-studded tournament.

&uot;It’s good to see a lot of old friends,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s for a good cause. They really treat you nice down here.&uot;

Three teams are tied for fifth place with rounds of 15-under 56: Richard McKinney, Robert McKinney, Allen Smith and Cookie Wilson; Chuck Fields, Adam Cardneaux, Malcolm Hall and Corbett Edgin; and Bub Mullins, Lee Jones, Howard Jones and George Johnson.

&uot;It was a well-rounded team effort,&uot; Fields said. &uot;Everybody helped out a lot. We were fortunate to have two eagles on the back side. We drove it as well as we could. The putting was tough. The greens were lightning fast.&uot;

Two of the celebrities who are playing in this year’s tournament are brothers Keith and Greg Champions. They are also nephews of Joe Fortunato and proud members of the military.

Keith Champion, who lives in Centreville, Va., is a major in the Marines and flew 41 missions in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

&uot;We were dropping bombs in the first Persian Gulf war,&uot; he said. &uot;A lot of battlefield interdiction. I flew F-18s. I was the operations officer. I was responsible for who flew what missions. They (Iraqis) were grossly overmatched as they were this time.&uot;

Keith Champion now works as a pilot for American Airlines.

Greg Champion, who lives in Texas, is a colonel in the Army National Guard is a Special Forces officer. He just got back from serving in Afghanistan.

&uot;I was the commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force,&uot; he said. &uot;We worked a lot with local leaders and local civilians. The citizens want us over there.

&uot;We’re preventing the warlords and the Taliban from taking over again. Our goal is to establish a central government with (Afghani) president Karzai. There are members of the Mississippi National Guard and 20th Special Forces being deployed to southwest Asia.&uot;

Indeed their were quite a few celebrities playing in this year’s tournament, the major fund-raiser for the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame.

Among them are Trinity golf sensation Lee Jones, Howell, Delta State head football coach Rick Rhodes and former NFL stars Noland Smith (Kansas City Chiefs), Paige Cothren (Los Angels Rams) and Barney Poole (New York Giants).