Alumni group golfs for good cause in Houston

Former players, managers among those helping prostate cancer research nonprofit

May 24th, 2016

HOUSTON -- Several warm-weather, geographically desirable cities are designated sites for charity golf tournaments hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association each year. On Monday, it was Houston's turn to play host.

Nearly 60 celebrity golfers participated in the latest MLBPAA charity golf tournament at Champions Golf Club. The group included former baseball, football and basketball players, as well as radio and television personalities, many of whom live year-round in Houston and are regulars at these functions.

"This is one of the really great courses in town, so it makes a lot of fun on top of that," said former Astros catcher Alan Ashby, currently a member of the Astros broadcasting team.

The tournament was originally scheduled for mid-April, but had to be postponed thanks to the massive, record-setting floods that more or less shut the city down for a couple of days. Monday's weather forecast was more favorable -- overcast, hot, humid, and only a sliver of a chance of rain.

Most of those on the confirmed guest list for the April event were present on Monday. From the baseball side, several prominent Astros figures were on hand, including three former managers -- Phil Garner, Art Howe and Larry Dierker -- in addition to former players such as Ashby, Jimmy Wynn, Kevin Bass and Mike Jackson. Other notables were broadcasters Bill Brown and Steve Sparks, who, like Ashby, were able to attend the function thanks to a perfectly placed Astros off-day.

The tournament accomplishes a couple of things: It raises funds for a worthy cause, and it gives old teammates and friends an excuse to get together in a social setting.

"It's always a social thing for me," Brown said. "I've met a lot of great people playing golf. I've never been any good at it, but it doesn't really matter."

There was definitely a class reunion feel to the event when participants first arrived to check in.

"There are some guys here who are recently retired and may be in their 30s or 40s," Dierker said. "But there's a lot of guys like me that are in their 50s and 60s and you haven't seen them in a long time, and once a year, out here, that makes it special. There is a bond, whether you played a half season or 20 years, there is a bond."

Proceeds from the tournament benefited Tony's Prostate Cancer Research, a nonprofit organization formed 14 years ago by local restauranteur Tony Masraff and his family, after Masraff was diagnosed with the disease. The fund has a specific intention -- to support research for non-invasive treatments.

"When my dad was first diagnosed, he started looking for answers to questions," said Russell Masraff, Tony's son. "We've raised millions, and it's literally all gone to one project. We didn't want it to go to some general fund. This is being funded for one purpose -- non-invasive treatment, and a cure."

Many golfers were quick to laud the efforts of Tony's Prostate Cancer Research, especially because the years of fundraising have led to real progress.

"There are two things involved," Garner said. "It's obviously a good cause. Supporting prostate cancer [research] -- it's important to all men. Everybody's going to get it sooner or later if you live long enough. The research they're doing ... they're making absolutely fabulous progress.

"And then it's a good chance to see everyone. I just saw Alan Ashby. I don't get to see him very often. It usually has to be at an event like this. It's always fun."