Fortunato tournament raises scholarship money

Published 12:26 am Sunday, May 3, 2009

NATCHEZ — Former Dallas Cowboy linebacker D.D. Lewis is by no means a small man, but even he couldn’t eat all the food offered to him Saturday at Duncan Park.

Lewis was one of two celebrity golfers at the 15th annual Joe Fortunato Celebrity Golf Classic, which, in addition to raising money for scholarships, boasts enough home-cooked food to bust any gut.

Former Ole Miss All-American and Green Bay Packer Allen Brown and former Ole Miss football player Red Owens cooked barbecue pork with all the trimmings for the $100 entry fee each golfer paid, and the money raised will fund the seven scholarships given to area student-athletes by the Miss-Lou Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

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“We have a nice crowd. But if it wasn’t for raising the money for the schoarlships, we wouldn’t be doing this,” Fortunato, a former Chicago Bear, said. “The letters and stuff we get from the kids after they go to school saying, ‘You don’t know how much that scholarship helped me and allowed me to go to school,’ that means a lot to us. That’s why we do it.”

The NFFHOF gives out $10,000 in scholarships each year to seven different students from area high schools who demonstrate academic achievement along with athletic ability.

The team of Jeff Anderson, Casey Hamm, Kevin Smith Jr. and Jordan Farmer won the championship flight of the tournament with a 17-under-par 54 in the four-man scramble tournament.

The team of Johnny and Kevin Bland and Jimmy and Trey Pritchard and the team of Bub Mullins, Howard and Lee Jones and Jackson Bryant tied for second place with a 16-under 55.

Noland Smith, a former Kansas City Chief and the other celebrity in the tournament, finished with a 13-under-par 58 with his team of Gregg Brooking, Tom Estes and Jack Benson, taking second place in the first flight behind Ben White, Thomas Bolyer, Gerald Cornwall and Jody Heibling.

Lewis, along with teammates James Burgess, Robin Stewart and Jim Eidt, finished with a 12-under 59.

“We had trouble making par,” Lewis said. “We made some good shots, but we couldn’t get it in the hole. Eidt, He’s 73 years old, and he was our ringer. He chipped one off the green, and he made one eagle.”

The tournament was reduced to one day from its usual two, with tee times at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Smith, who has missed the tournament just once in 15 years, said he understood the change, although he was a bit disappointed.

“We have such a good time that I don’t want it to be over,” he said. “With the economy the way it is, I can understand why it’s just one day, if that’s the reason. But certainly with the camaraderie and fun we have here, you don’t want it to end.”

William McDonald, Billy Risher, Dee Horton and Johnny Junkin won the second flight with an 11-under-par 60, and the team of Gary Mullins, Jay Massey, Cullen Foley and Fred St. Clair won flight three with a 9-under 63.

Lewis, who arrived in Natchez Friday and took in the sights, like grabbing a burger and ice cream at the Malt Shop, said he enjoyed the tournament and the people.

He said he hopes his schedule, which includes a lot of work-related golf tournaments, allows him to come back next year.

“I’m very impressed with Natchez,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, and the people were great. Some of these people were even old enough to understand who I was.”