Fantasy Springs Resort Casino Hosts Pro Sports Team Challenge

Eagle Falls Golf Course Fits Sports Hall of Fame Athletes to the Tee with Team Challenge Event


You couldn’t have asked for more excitement. Pins and needles, the edge of your seat, a gnashing of teeth, “gosh I can’t look” as you peered between your fingers: pick your aphorism, but Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script. The fan voting determined the winner of the first annual Pro Sports Team Challenge celebrity golf tournament held at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino's pristine new Eagle Falls Golf Course in Indio, CA.


The two-day tournament, which united four superstars each from baseball basketball, football, and hockey, was a combination reunion, party, joke-fest, and feisty golf battle. After a round robin, best-ball and scramble format on the first day, the players locked horns in a modified skins format on day two. Handicaps were used, so weaker players like Michael Strahan (a 12 handicap) and LaDainian Tomlinson (a 15 handicap), had a fighting chance against aces like George Gervin and Mario Lemieux.


John Salley of the Best Damn Sports Show Period, Hockey Hall of Fame's Mario Lemieux, PlayerXT's Curt Holstein and Basketball Great and Team Challenge Commissioner Charles Barkley.


The format delivered tension from the opening tee shot. After day one, a mere eight points separated the four teams. As day two dawned, the desert provided the first heat. It was hot. How hot was it?…it was so hot, one “z” melted out of Ozzie Smith’s name. It was so hot, Drew Brees’s hair caught fire, (as well as his golf game). It was so hot, the lightning bolt on LaDainian Tomlinson’s golf shirt supercharged and blew a palm tree to kingdom come. You get the idea.

Nevertheless, the players’ games sizzled just as much. For Team Basketball, George “Iceman” Gervin might have well been Mr. Freeze, firing a snowy ray gun with one hand and “grab a chair” harpoon-like wedge shots with the other. He was under par for the day. Clyde Drexler holed out a gap wedge on one par-5 for eagle as patrons shrieked in delight. Team Football was equal to the task, with John Elway carding a searing round and Drew Brees melting the middle nine holes of the golf course with fiery drives, and laser irons.

“It was a heck of a battle” Brees said as he wiped his brow. I played well, but I had Pierre Larounche from Team Hockey challenging me all day. He played really well.” Indeed, Larouche started like a house afire, carding plenty of points early and surging hockey to the top of the leaderboard after four holes. “Yeah, Pierre was our bulldog” said Team Hockey captain Mario Lemieux, who battled Elway all day, as well as Team Baseball Captain Ozzie Smith and Clyde the Glide. “What a tough foursome.”
                                                                   

At right: Giant's Super Bowl Champ Michael Strahan, PlayerXT's Roy Hahn and San Diego's All Pro LaDamion Tomlison. At left: Dallas Maverick All Pro Jason Kidd and Maya Rochelle.

Nevertheless, no lead was safe with the 2x players on the course. The top three teams traded the lead back and forth at the speed of light – or the Internet. Using the “strat.e.golf” Internet platform, where a fan Internet vote determined a player for each team whose score was worth double points. The vote proved pivotal, as the 2x player provided the margin of victory.

“I love the format” gushed an excited fan, Peter Vindrow from Seattle, Washington. “It may seem like a long way to travel for a celebrity golf tournament, but I have a house here. The format promised excitement and it delivered. We had no idea who was going to win until the last putt dropped and nobody was able to pull away with 2x players out on the course.”
 
There was still a lot of fun too. While looking for Clyde Drexler’s ball, Event Commissioner Charles Barkley asked what he was playing. Glide replied “A Top-Flite.”

That did it. “You’re playin’ a Top Flite?!” an incredulous Charles moaned. That’s just embarrassing!”

The players competed for a total purse of $250,000 for charity, with $100,000 going to the winning team. Old friends and bitter rivals came together in an altruistic quest to help America’s troops abroad, (USO, Team Basketball’s Charity), children whose lives were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, (Operation Kids, Team Football), cancer victims, (Hockey Fights Cancer), and members of the extended baseball family who have fallen on hard times, (the Baseball Assistance Team).


“I was so happy for the charities and for the fans” said a genuinely grateful Tom Belton, CEO of Team Challenge. “Not only did we have a large purse to divide between four terrific causes, but the athletes and format generated so much excitement, I was really moved. As I saw the last group walk down eighteen with three teams in the running, it proved to everyone that the format of Internet fan voting and accelerated scoring [where match play matches count for more than one point, but tally points for each hole won and each hole closed out early] – is thrilling and has a future in team golf formats.”

Indeed, standing at the scorers table watching sports legends biting their nails and feverishly waiting for results from active matches was exhilarating to players and fans alike. It was a fierce competition and proved the fans thirst for new forms of team golf and match play scoring, as well as some participation. Their picks made all the difference.

The Awards Party was a star-studed affair poolside at the Fantasy Springs Resort. Chef Freddy Reieger prepared a feast for the all-pro Hall of Famers from four different sports. The night ended with comical banter between SNL's Hall of Famer Martin Short and Sir. Charles, the Comish.

“The concept of the 2X player is wonderful” echoed Ozzie Smith. “When we saw who the fans picked, we knew that the player would be honored and inspired to play even harder than ever.”

“The captains used it to their advantage” echoed Ed Ellis, Team Challenge VP of Golf Operations. “The idea of bring the fans into the game is a concept whose time has come and fits well not only with celebrities, but team golf in general. Moreover, you can’t just play conservatively because even a big lead can whittle away like lightning.

“It provides some oomph” agreed Bobby Reid, a fan from Sacramento. “It came of age today in front of the Fox TV cameras. It’s here to stay and golf just added a whole new dimension.”