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Celebrity tourney is already a huge hit

Tee Talk

Add a few names, strike a few others.

Make arrangements for the stars, make room for more teams.

Fret about the pace of play, worry about the weather.

We've learned a lot in the first year, says Jim Winans, one of the organizers of the Chad Cota Celebrity Shootout golf tournament, which will debut Monday at Eagle Point Golf Course. It takes a lot of work to put one of these on.

The tournament that started out as a sort of mom-and-pop venture has grown rapidly.

— In the six months since Cota and Winans put the idea into action, the celebrity count has tripled to about 15 from original estimates, the number of teams has doubled and the tournament committee's goal of raising &

36;30,000 for charity seems a sure thing.

It's the first year, and we're real happy with how it's going, says Cota.

The guest list has changed in the past couple of months. Pete Weber, bowling's most recognizable star and the reigning champion of the PBA Medford Open, has agreed to play, as has Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens.

Out are former NBA player Truck Robinson, Green Bay Packers kicker Ryan Longwell and former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien.

Portland Trail Blazer Dan Dickau intends to play, but his wife is due to give birth, leaving his status in question.

Otherwise, most of the big names are unchanged: Mike Vanderjagt, Neil Lomax, Chris Miller, Marshall Holman, Tracey Eaton, Cade McNown, Josh Bidwell, Alex Molden, Peter Sirmon, Gorman Thomas, Dino Philyaw, Ken Ruettgers and Gregory Harrison.

Cota, with former Indianapolis Colts teammate Vanderjagt as his partner, is competing in Lomax's own celebrity tournament today and hopes to entice a couple of other players to come south for a round Sunday at Bandon Dunes and the tourney Monday.

Organizers were overwhelmed by community interest in Cota's tournament. Thirty-two four-man scramble teams were expected to play, but the field filled up in two weeks, and there were many more players wanting in. Another flight was added, bumping the number of teams to 60, and there now will be 7:30 a.m. and — p.m. tee times.

We didn't say 'no' to anyone, says Winans.

Most of the celebrities will play in the afternoon, but some ' including Cota ' have indicated they'll play in both flights.

A number of teams won't have celebrities on them, but they'll have a chance to visit with the stars at a meet-and-greet from 10 a.m. to noon at the course.

Speaking of attracting celebrities, Winans admits, I think we've just barely scratched the surface when it comes to that. The timing was a little short, and we did want to do it off of Neil Lomax's tournament.

A couple of NFL quarterbacks are interested in participating ' Peyton Manning of the Colts and Joey Harrington of the Lions ' but minicamp obligations prevent them from doing so.

Cota, who played eight years in the NFL, understands.

Those are the camps that are supposedly volunteer but that you don't want to miss, he chuckles.

There are other untapped resources to celebrities in the Rogue Valley that could prove beneficial.

Holman, of course, is one of them. The Hall of Fame bowler lined up Weber after conferring with organizers.

He just seemed like a natural fit, says Holman, who also is a link to the Celebrity Players Tour, on which he plays. He loves to play golf, and he's like the poster boy for the PBA.

The community has done a nice job of making it a great first-year event. But it will get better and continue to grow.

Cota and Co. will get a much better jump on the next one. The committee of about a half-dozen will meet a week after the tourney to see what we did right and what we did wrong, debrief a little, says Winans, and get input from Lomax.

Among the potential changes: moving the dates so as not to conflict with NFL minicamps; auction off the celebrities at a dinner the night before, as Lomax does; bump it to a two-day experience.

But first, there's a tournament to stage.

Hopefully, says Winans, it will run pretty smoothly.

IF EVER THERE was something that could tear asunder a marriage, it would be a Chapman golf format.

Each player hits their tee shot, then goes to the other's ball to hit their second shots. They then choose the best ball and alternate shots until the hole is completed.

In other words, one partner's bad shot can be the direct cause of the other's ire.

But that didn't dissuade 75 teams from competing in the two-day Married Couples Tournament Sunday and Monday. The 21-year event was actually down a dozen or more players, meaning it's been popular for some time in spite of the pitfalls.

It's always been a joke, says tournament chairman Joy Simms, that we have one of the pros drive around in a cart with a 'Divorce Court' sign on it. That adds a little humor so people will quit being mad at each other.

Ryan and Eloise Lawrence of Portland won the Flight A gross title with a two-day score of 150, two shots ahead of Steve and Kimberly Wood of Central Point.

Dick and Bonnie Brekke of Medford won the Flight A net crown with a 127.

There were also B and C flights.

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail