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Past and present Astros join together for golf benefit

Astros Foundation's annual classic raises money for Urban Youth Academy

RICHMOND, Texas -- Astros stars from past and present, as well as a few heavyweights in the Houston business community, gathered at Shadow Hawk Golf Club on Monday for the Astros Foundation's annual golf classic to benefit Urban Youth Academy.

The event, which was chaired by Astros' owner Jim Crane and partners Steve Gibson and Shawn Taylor -- president of Zaxby's Houston, LLC -- was expected to raise about $250,000 for the Academy, which provides free baseball and softball instruction, life skills training and academic support to at-risk kids in Houston.

"We want to get our foundation built up to where we really can have some impact in the city of Houston and the community," said Crane, who is an avid golfer. "We had a lot of players and coaches show up, and it should be fun. We hope to get this tournament bigger and we have a great auction."

Among the items up for online auction were a round of golf with Crane and accommodations at his Floridian Golf Club in Palm City, Fla., as well as autographed memorabilia.

Crane joined team president of business operations Reid Ryan, general manager Jeff Luhnow and current players such as Jarred Cosart, Matt Dominguez and Lucas Harrell in hitting the links for charity. Former Astros Craig Biggio, Craig Reynolds, Alan Ashby, Terry Puhl and John Hudek and 1989 Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware also played.

"Golf tournaments are an easy way to make a lot of money, especially at Shadow Hawk, which is one of the nicest courses in the city of Houston," Biggio said. "It's a little warm out there, but we'll move quickly and it's for a good cause."

Ryan said the foundation is focused on raising money for youth baseball, cancer research and the military.

"It's been spearheaded by Jim and his ownership group and with the Community Leaders program, where we've been rebuilding fields within the city of Houston, these types of events are going to endow the foundation," Ryan said. "Part of the goal for the Astros is not only to win championships, but we want to make a difference in the Houston community for a long time."

The tournament was reshaped this year in an effort to raise more money than it has in the past. Taylor, who was raised in the projects on the south side of Chicago by a single mother, is a former restaurateur and advocate for inner-city kids.

"In the past it was, 'Let's get as many people as possible to come out and play and charge a small amount of money,'" Taylor said. "I said, 'Let's raise the price significantly, make it a real special event for people, who will not only support the tournament, but ultimately we could get involved in some of the other efforts we're doing.'

"My main passion is to try to help inner-city kids ... I'm basically trying to pay back the hand-ups I was given over the years. This is pretty special. By year two, we'll have the entire budget covered for the Urban Youth Academy through this golf tournament."

Cosart, who might be the best golfer on the team with the departure of Bud Norris, was looking forward to playing with Astros players who he grew up cheering for.

"The fact you get a little fun while you're raising money for a good cause is awesome," Cosart said.

Just before taking some hacks on the driving range, Harrell was asked about his golf game.

"I'm not so good," Harrell said. "I think I'm good, but I'm not as good as I think I am. At least I'm honest, right?

Roger Clemens showed up with his wife, Debbie, who is a former women's club champion at Shadow Hawk.

"The Astros Foundation is important to a lot of people," Clemens said. "Crane put this together and called me and asked me to get out here. It's Monday and a golf outing, and you can't beat that. We're hoping to see a lot of familiar faces out there. Anything for a foundation."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.
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