Sports celebs hit the links for children’s home

Published 1:40 am Tuesday, November 13, 2007

NATCHEZ — The weather was rainy and the golf course was wet, but that didn’t stop some sports celebrities from teeing it up for a good cause Monday afternoon.

Beau Pre` Country Club hosted the Celebrity Players’ Tour event that benefited the Natchez Children’s Home. The event was a fund-raiser for the home and children’s home director Nancy Hungerford estimated it raised about $18,000 which will go towards building a new playground.

“It is wonderful,” Hungerford said. “That will take care of the first phase of the project.”

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Despite the rain, Hungerford said everyone had a good time on the course helping out the charity.

“Everyone had a wonderful time,” she said. “Everyone came in after the round wet and tired but they all had a smile on their face.”

The event was a five-person scramble with four local players pairing up with a celebrity.

Sports personalities such as Major League Baseball umpires Joe West and Greg Bonin, former New Orleans Saints quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver, former LSU football star Brian Kinchen, Long Drive Association World Champion Sean Fister and former NBA star and current ESPN broadcaster Jon Barry participated in the event.

The celebrities visited the children’s home before the tournament teed off at noon.

Some had participated in the event in the past while others, such as Barry and Tolliver were participating for the first time.

Barry was moved by his visit to the children’s home.

“It’s tough to see,” Barry said. “These poor kids have no one. You want to take them home with you. It’s very heartwarming to see people dedicate their lives to helping kids like these. It really makes you take a step back and see how well you have it in your life.”

West has participated in almost every Celebrity Players Tour event held in Natchez and said helping the kids is what brings him back every year.

“The children’s home is a great cause,” West said. “It’s good people trying to do a good deed for others less fortunate. The highlight of the trip is to see those kids’ smiling faces. That’s what we’re here for.”

The Natchez Children’s Home takes in children from chaotic home situations involving physical, drug or alcohol abuse and tries to acclimate them back into society. They also run a daycare for pre-schoolers who aren’t able to associate in a normal daycare setting.

Three-time long drive world champion Fister said it was an honor to donate his time to such a worthwhile charity.

“It’s one thing to be able to make a living out of hitting a ball,” Fister said. “But using your skills and celebrity to give back to society is a responsibility. It’s a very humbling experience.”

However, the experience wasn’t great only for the celebrity golfers. The children at the home also had a treat meeting them.

“All of our kids will remember this,” Hungerford said. “They know people who take time out of their lives to support them and they appreciate it.”