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Celebrity Golf Classic raises record amount

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

For the second consecutive year, the Autobahn Celebrity Golf Classics charity fundraiser was a huge success, raising a record amount of money to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas and the Dallas Stars Foundation.

Brenden Morrow
The event, featuring a big party last Saturday night at the Frontiers of the Flight Museum near Love Field in Dallas, and four separate golf tournaments that paired up Stars players with donors, raised over $600,000 for the two organizations. That will make this one of the top three charity golf tournaments in the Metroplex.

While it is the 40th annual tournament benefiting the Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas (BBBSNT), it is just the second year that the Dallas Stars Foundation has also been part of the event, and the partnership has worked very well for each group.

“It just takes us to a totally different level,” said Charles Pierson, CEO of BBBSNT. “The Dallas Stars are such a class organization, their players and their staff get behind it and it’s really special, because they do such a fabulous job in supporting the event and they have such a great face in the community. Big Brothers Big Sisters’ association with them, it’s priceless, really.”

With Stars players donating large chunks of time to play an entire 18-hole round of golf, not to mention attending dinner afterwards as well as the Saturday night party, the depth of involvement from the team’s point of view is significant. Additionally, Dallas captain Brenden Morrow served as the celebrity host of the event for the third straight year.

“It’s always fun to be able to join in with the group that are putting in so much time to put this together,” Stars defenseman Philippe Boucher said. “I’ve known those guys for awhile, and supporting Brenden, who’s lending his name to the tournament. It’s fun. We do a lot of fun things in the year, but the Saturday night party is always a fun one. You get to interact with some of the fans and the major sponsors of the golf tournament and that’s always a lot of fun, and a day of golf is always great, also.”

“We asked Brenden Morrow if he would like to chair this event and be our celebrity host, and he’s been a fantastic addition,” noted Dan Stuchal, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for BBBSNT. “We couldn’t have a better role model and a better spokesman to come forward and represent Big Brothers Big Sisters, and we feel very fortunate to have him on our team.”

Following the party Saturday night where donors enjoyed a delicious dinner catered by Cool River Café while many enticing prizes were auctioned off, there were four separate tee times at three different golf courses across two days, Monday and Tuesday. 

Monday, participants teed off at Stonebridge Country Club, hosted by Cadbury Schweppes, and at Sky Creek Ranch Golf Club, while Tuesday, there were two rounds played at Cowboys Golf Club hosted by Compass Bank. While rainy weather dampened some of the activity on Monday, much nicer weather prevailed on Tuesday, making for much better golfing conditions.

“It was fun,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas, who played Tuesday morning. “I played in it last year, and I think it’s a really good cause. You get the chance to meet different people, different sponsors. I think it’s good that people get involved like that, so for me, it was just fun to be part of that. It was a beautiful day outside, got a chance to play golf, so it was perfect.”

Ralph Strangis
With two very successful organizations involved, each with the goal of improving the lives of children, it is only natural that the event proceeded so smoothly and generated so many generous donations. And with the numerous connections over the years between the Stars and Big Brothers Big Sisters, it seems like it was only a matter of time before the two became partners.

“Back in 2000, (Stars TV and radio play-by-play man) Ralph Strangis unofficially became part of this event and for four years, volunteered his time,” explained Dan Stuchal, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for BBBSNT. “He’s the one who actually connected Big Brothers Big Sisters to the Stars officially, so that we joined together, knowing that we could grow it to even greater levels in an official capacity.”

In addition to the involvement of Strangis, who hit the links Tuesday morning with three donors to form a foursome, and Morrow, who became the celebrity host the year before the Stars Foundation partnership, the highest-ranked person of the Stars’ ownership group not named Tom Hicks is also a board member of BBBSNT.

“It’s very important,” said Casey Shilts, Executive Vice President of Hicks Sports Holdings, who sits on the board of the Stars Foundation as well. “To me, it’s like the best of both worlds, because it is the coming together of two organizations that I’m involved with and it’s for such a good cause. Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas is absolutely life-changing in these children’s lives and it’s really important that we’re out here raising money for them.”

Stuchal pointed out just how mutually beneficial the association has been for each entity, and how that has helped them raise more money than ever before at this golf tournament.

“I think it’s been good for both organizations,” Stuchal said. “I think the Big Brothers Big Sisters Celebrity Golf Classic, over the years, has a very different clientele than the Dallas Stars do. So we’ve been able to cross-market. The Dallas Stars have been introduced to a lot of people who have supported us, and vice versa - we’ve been introduced to a lot of Dallas Stars season ticket holders and sponsors that we haven’t been in touch with before. So it’s really helped both teams in meeting more people in the community who have a common goal of serving more kids and helping them to see a brighter future.” 

At the Frontiers of the Flight Museum party on Saturday night, some coveted prizes were auctioned off, with Strangis acting as the emcee. Among the most highly sought-after goodies were a trip on the Stars’ team plane to an away game (including hotel accommodations and tickets to the game), a night at the Four Seasons Hotel in Dallas along with a round of golf with Boucher, and then the biggest draw of the night, a nice dinner out with Morrow and his wife Anne-Marie. That last prize actually had to be split between two different couples bidding, because neither would relent.

On Monday, the Stars players held a driving contest amongst them, and Boucher emerged as the victor, barely surpassing goaltender Marty Turco for the longest drive.

“Yeah, I got by Turks by about two yards, so I could brag,” Boucher smiled. “That was the second time in two weeks that I beat him in a golf tournament, so I could brag on that. He can hit it. I think I got lucky, that was early in the day and the course was really wet, so nobody got by it.”

Joel Lundqvist
While the individual donors, who paid into the thousands of dollars for the chance to play and ride the golf cart with their favorite players, clearly enjoyed themselves, getting a rare chance to spend a lot of one-on-one time with their sporting heroes, so did the players, who also don’t often get such an opportunity to really connect with their fans, especially in such an intimate, and fun, setting.

“Usually, you don’t get a chance to meet people,” Robidas noted. “Sometimes you meet them at dinner, or at an auction, but you don’t really get the chance to meet them. But playing a full round of golf, you get to be with them for 4 1/2 - 5 hours with dinner after, so you get the chance to meet the people, talk to them. They ask different types of questions, it’s pretty nice.”

And when you add in the substantial amount of money raised that will help two really worthy causes, it’s just a win-win situation all the way around.   

The Dallas Stars Foundation, which has donated almost $2 million to various local children’s charities since it began in 1999, gained new funds that it can later distribute to commendable local causes, such as its recent grant to the new Children’s Medical Center being built in Plano.

For Big Brothers Big Sisters, a volunteer organization that provides children support, guidance, friendship and fun by matching them to adult role models in one-to-one mentoring relationships, the influx of contributed money will allow it to help more local children than ever before. 

“We use that support to help us recruit volunteers, to help us match support specialists in their lives, so it’s greatly needed,” Pierson, the BBBSNT CEO, said of the donated funds. “We’ve got kids on our waiting list, and this financial support will help us get those kids off our waiting list, get them a big brother or big sister and allow them to be in that special friendship for the next year, so we’re excited about that.”
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