The Arizona Diamondbacks kicked off Veterans Day weekend in style on Friday as they hosted the eighth annual D-backs Celebrity Golf Classic, presented by Sanderson Ford, to raise money for veterans and active military personnel. The tournament featured an assortment of current and former players, including Miguel Montero, Jay Bell,
The Arizona Diamondbacks kicked off Veterans Day weekend in style on Friday as they hosted the eighth annual D-backs Celebrity Golf Classic, presented by Sanderson Ford, to raise money for veterans and active military personnel. The tournament featured an assortment of current and former players, including Miguel Montero, Jay Bell, Augie Ojeda, Russ Ortiz and Omar Daal, coaches Mike Butcher, Dave McKay and Tony Perezchica as well as D-backs executives and broadcasters.
"This event is the one that brings the most current and former players together," said D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall at the Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz. "I think that any time you are doing something that benefits veterans and active military members, it inspires everyone to be a part of it.
"I like to see everybody come together both before and after the tournament. The celebration, the reunions, the after-party. ... This is a very successful tournament that keeps getting bigger, and it has been an extremely rewarding experience to see the money we raise for those families who have made sacrifices for our freedom."
The Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation has donated more than $865,000 to local military organizations since 2011. This year, $230,000 was raised to benefit military charities, bringing that figure to over $1 million in less than a decade.
"It's a part of the $6 million-7 million we give back each year. It´s a great way to get things going, directly impacting servicemen and women," said Hall.
D-backs legend Luis Gonzalez also raved about the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation's overall charitable efforts benefiting the local community
"This event is awesome," Gonzalez said. "Veterans Day is around the corner, and this is a great opportunity for us to raise money for them as well as honor them. This is what it's all about when the D-backs give back to the community."
Folds of Honor and Gold Star Wife Ashley Thornton Schafer gave the opening remarks with a moving speech before being presented a check for $25,000 to Folds of Honor and Military Assistance Mission.
Also among the honored was late Arizona Senator John McCain. The Vietnam War veteran and fervent D-backs fan was represented and remembered at the tournament by his son, Andy.
"It did make it more special," said Gonzalez. "I actually played in the same foursome as his son. I had the opportunity to be a pallbearer at [his father's] funeral. He was a great man and a huge part of history for the United States. For him to be from Arizona is truly an honor. It meant a lot to all of us."
The fundraising efforts would not have been as fruitful without the help of sponsors like Sanderson Ford, an ally of the D-backs in the efforts to recognize veterans.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to give back to the veterans," said Tom Collins, Sanderson Ford's general sales manager. "I'm just so proud to be associated with it."
After the ceremonies, it was time to play, and everyone from casual golfers like D-backs reliever Brad Boxberger to avid ones with "championship aspirations" like starting pitcher Taijuan Walker had a blast after the shotgun start that separated everyone into foursomes.
"I have family and friends who are in the troops, so it's always good to lend a helping hand," said Walker, who attended the event for the first time.
All for one, and fun for all
The Budweiser Prize Vault included bicycles, golf travel bags, high-end coolers and custom engraved and autographed memorabilia. Individual contests, such as the Men's Long Drive competition, included a personalized D-backs jersey as well as tickets to a game of choice in 2019.
The true prizes, however, were bragging rights, and that is where former D-backs pitchers J.J. Putz and Joe Saunders stole the show.
"The D-backs set up a great golf event for Veterans Day weekend, and I'm having a blast," said Putz, who is a special assistant to Hall and ranked second all-time in D-backs saves with 83 between 2010-14. "The military means so much. These guys fight for the freedoms we are given every single day. I never take that for granted."
Putz complimented his former teammate in a unique way.
"I'm probably the best former player/golfer in this tournament besides Joe Saunders. I don't know how he does it, the guy has extremely sweaty hands [laughs]. I would put my money on Joe all day, though."
Saunders didn't stay behind and fired back.
"J.J. can hit it a long way, but almost never straight," joked Saunders, who alongside Putz was a part of the 2011 National League West-champion club. "If he manages to make it go straight, watch out, but if you are looking for consistency, then I'm your guy. We are going to bet on who has the least amount of putts.
"It's awesome to be out here catching up with former teammates, meeting new teammates and helping out a great cause. I wouldn't miss it for the world."
The after-party put a bow on an amazing afternoon under the sun, and like Hall said, this event helped shift the team's focus forward as well.
"This is an opportunity to turn the page and start focusing on 2019. Then we have our MVP Awards, and before you know it, we are at Spring Training," Hall said.