Sports celebs to hit Natchez links

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2008

NATCHEZ — Last year’s Celebrity Players Tour golf tournament that took place at Beau Pré Country Club allowed the Natchez Children’s Home to begin building a playground.

This year’s tournament will allow them to finish it.

Fifteen sports personalities, including former Southern Miss and New Orleans Saints punter Ray Guy and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox, will tee it up at Beau Pré next Monday to help out the Children’s Home.

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Last year’s tournament raised about $18,000 and Children’s Home director Nancy Hungerford hopes this year’s tournament will raise $20,000, which will go toward finishing the home’s playground area. by installing a play area for the preschool and elementary school children at the home.

“We kick-started the whole thing (new playground) with last year’s tournament,” Hungerford said. “The funds raised last year went to start building the playground. Now we’ve got eight swings, a breakaway basketball goal is being installed and they’re striping the court. The third and most expensive phase of the new playground is a unit for preschool and elementary school children.”

The new equipment will include slides, a small climbing wall and chutes for the children to crawl through. Hungerford said the goal is to have the playground finished by the spring.

“(The children) are so excited about it,” Hungerford said. “I have these little guys come in and say ‘Are we getting a new playground Mrs. Nancy?’ Just seeing the pictures of what it will look like creates a tremendous amount of excitement.”

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.

Hungerford said a new playground is essential for the well-being of the children who stay at the home.

“It’s my concerted opinion that a child’s work is to play,” Hungerford said. “To do that safely in a creative, colorful environment is a tremendous stress reliever for these little guys. It’s a great way to learn how to get along. A lot of life experiences are taught on the playground.”

The tournament doesn’t begin until Monday but Sunday there will be a pairings party and dinner at Beau Pré for the Celeb-Am participants at 5 p.m. At 7 p.m., there will be a auction at the Grand Soleil ballroom, with proceeds benefiting the playground project at the Children’s Home.

Monday, each of the 15 celebrities will be paired with amateur partners with a 11:45 a.m. shotgun start following a trick shot demonstration by acclaimed trick shot artist Buddy Shelton.

Sixteen-year Major League Baseball veteran Rick Rhoden, who is the winningest celebrity golfer in history, said he is looking forward to participating in the event for the first time and helping out the Children’s Home.

“I think any of these (tournaments) you play in, the reason you do it is because someone is benefiting from them,” Rhoden said. “We can play golf anywhere, you don’t have to come to Natchez to play golf. The reason everyone does it is to raise money for the kids.”

Other participants include former New York Yankees pitcher Ralph Terry, Major League umpires Joe West and Greg Bonin, former LSU and NFL tight end Brian Kinchen and national long drive champion Sean Fister.

For more information about signing up to play in the event or helping to sponsor, contact Hungerford at 601-442-6858 or Dwayne David at Beau Pré Country Club at 601-442-5493.