Tuesday, August 2, 2011

At Pacific University's Legends Golf Classic, 'magical jam session' brings sports donors out in droves

By Kelly House, The Oregonian

You know it's going to be a party when the host is a famous guitarist and the guest list includes several of his rock star friends.

Organizers of Pacific University's annual Legends Golf Classic charity tournament, which finished its fifth run Monday at Aloha's The Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club, say its star-studded, rambunctious atmosphere has made it the university's most hyped yearly fundraiser.

"I've had phone calls and emails from people at Division I and Division II schools from all over the country, just asking how to put something like this on," Pacific Athletic Director Ken Schumann said at Monday's tournament.

Not bad for an event that began like many other small schools' charity golf outings: Just a couple of dozen Pacific sports supporters swinging clubs to support the athletic department.

Enter KISS lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, a Beaverton native who serves on Pacific's board of trustees, and the smalltime fundraiser became a place to see, be seen, and party like a rock star.

"It just kind of makes you feel special when you're going to spend money on a cause," said Marshal Burgess, 38, of Portland, who gushed about his dinner with actor Clint Howard the night before.

The backstory goes like this: Schumann invited Thayer, then a new trustee, to participate in that year's the golf outing. Thayer accepted, but on one condition.

"I said of course I would, but I want to make it a really top-notch event," Thayer said as he prepared to tee off Monday.

Luckily, Thayer's address book is filled with other celebrity musicians and pro golfers he's met through the pro-am circuit. He called up a few friends, asked them to join, and soon the small fundraiser earned the title of "celebrity golf outing."

Pacific earned $75,000 in Thayer's first year at the golf outing. This year, Schumann expects the event to net at least $180,000, with 160 people paying top dollar to hit balls with their music and sports idols.

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