Former Cowboy to play in tournament

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 24, 2009

NATCHEZ — A Cowboy will be moseying his way into Natchez next month.

Linebacker D.D. Lewis will be the celebrity player in the 15th Annual Joe Fortunato Golf Tournament to be at Duncan Park May 2.

The tournament is the biggest fundraiser for the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

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Lewis played for Mississippi State University before being drafted to the Dallas Cowboys in 1968, where he spent his entire 14-year career.

Lewis was named to the All-Southeastern Conference first team in 1966 and ’67 and was named an All-American and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 1967.

“A friend of mine, James Burgess, from Marks, Miss., asked me to come down and play, plus Joe told me about it,” Lewis said. “I just haven’t been able to come until this year. It worked out that had to do business in Louisiana so it just so happened I could come.”

Lewis and Fortunato have been friends for a long time, and the two knew of each other from Mississippi State and the NFL.

Lewis, who holds the Cowboys’ record for 27 playoff games, has five Super Bowl appearances and two wins. He was voted the Most Popular Player by Cowboys fans and was given the Bart Starr Meritorious Award in 1981.

Now the Knoxville, Tenn., native lives in Plano, Texas, works as a customer relations manager for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and travels the country as a motivational speaker against drug use.

“I play in charity golf tournaments when I can,” Lewis said. “I don’t do it as much as I used to, but it’s important. If they want somebody like me to play, I’ll help out when I can.”

The Fortunato Tournament, which will be at Duncan Park Golf Course, has been changed from a two-day to a one-day event.

There will be a morning and an afternoon tee time, at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“Two days is just starting to wear on everybody — we need some younger members,” Estes said. “It takes a lot of work.

“I’ve had some (positive and negative) responses, and only time will tell if it works. We’re just hoping one day better suits what the golfers want.”

Fortunato’s wife, Catherine, does most of the tournament’s coordination, and she said there has been a positive response to the change so far.

She said registration will continue through Saturday — if someone shows up at 10 a.m. and wants to play that afternoon, they can. And she hopes for anywhere between 145 and 160 golfers.

“We have a lot of hard workers — everybody volunteers and works very hard,” she said. “Any help anybody wants to give us we’re very appreciative of.”

The tournament raises money for the foundation’s scholarship fund. Seven scholarships are given to area senior athletes each year.

And Estes said the $100 entry fee is well worth it.

“It’s the only tournament I know of where we actually have people out there cooking something that is for the golfer and his spouse or significant other,” he said. “We have breakfasts in the morning, and lunch is a hot meal cooked by Alan Brown and his group.

“We also cook enough to have snacks throughout the day. For $100, that’s a lot of food and golf.”