December 03, 2014

Charitable heroes

Heavy afternoon rains may have dampened the championship course at Isleworth Golf & Country Club on Tuesday, but nothing could contain the enthusiasm participants felt during the Celebrity-Am tournament that kicked off the 16th annual Hero World Challenge.

Twenty-three celebrities teed it up with dozens of corporate executives and event supporters for a fun-filled day. And while none of the groups finished their rounds before the rains came to west Orlando, a fabulous time was had by all.

“This is my first year playing, and it was just awesome,” said Fred McGriff, the famous “Crime Dog” of the Atlanta Braves, who helped that franchise win a World Series in 1995. “It’s going to be great seeing Tiger come back over the next few days. It’s good for golf when Tiger is playing.”

The 14-time major champion and tournament host made his presence felt around the grounds of Isleworth, conducting interviews and making his guests feel welcome. 

“I saw him on the practice range hitting some balls,” said Gary Sheffield, another baseball legend and newcomer to Woods’ charitable event. “He looked good! I’m just glad to be here. It’s a great course, a great event and a great cause.”

Sheffield’s got it right.

Since its inception in 1996, the Tiger Woods Foundation has raised more than $80 million to support students at every stage of their academic careers through dedicated mentors, professional development workshops and internships.

Now in its 16th year, the Hero World Challenge has contributed $25 million of that alone.

“Tiger’s foundation is helping others have a chance to be successful,” said legendary Notre Dame head football coach Lou Holtz during the Celebrity-Am. “This is a great event. People come here with a tremendous attitude — people that are not only successful, but very significant. When you help other people be successful, then you become significant in life, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.”

“Tiger’s done a lot of amazing things with his charitable efforts through the years, probably nobody’s done it better,” added Joe Don Rooney, lead guitarist and vocalist in the pop-country band Rascal Flatts. “When a lot is given to you, you’re really required to give back, whether it’s money or just time. You never know, you just might be able to lift some spirits and make people smile.”

Smiles. That’s what it was all about Tuesday at the Hero World Challenge. They were everywhere, and they were contagious. And not even the rain could spoil that.