Grand Blanc – There was plenty of star power at Warwick Hills on Saturday, and only some of it was battling for a trophy.
While the Champions Tour pros were busy battling for the lead during the second round of the Ally Challenge, a trio of Hall of Famers — including a pair of golfing legends — highlighted a star-studded celebrity shootout that was busy raising plenty of money for local charities.
Jack Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 major tournaments, and Lee Trevino, a six-time major champion who is one of only four players to twice win the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship, teamed up with Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo and Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill to entertain the crowd and net a check of $30,000 that went to six charities around Southeast Michigan.
“This is great,” Izzo said. “Ally did an unbelievable job and with all the charities, it’s great to be a part of.”
Izzo has his own credentials as a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and a national championship, but getting to play alongside two members of golf royalty was huge for the native of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“This is a bucket list (item) for me,” Izzo said, “with two Yoopers here with Jeff and to get to be around guys like this who are incredible role models, it doesn’t matter what sport they’re in. The class they have and the way they were out there … we all should learn from golf.”
Nicklaus, 81, isn’t moving as well as he used to, but still was a crowd favorite, going along with Trevino and his lively personality while hitting his fair share of decent shots.
“We had a little bit (of fun),” Nicklaus said. “I didn’t play very well, but that’s all right. I haven’t been playing very much and my legs showed it. You play any sport, you have to have your legs and I don’t have any legs left, and I have to build that back up again.
“But what a great group to play with. Both the coaches were great, Lee played terrific. He always plays great. So it was good fun.”
And which coach had the better game?
“I don’t know,” Nicklaus said. “They’re both pretty decent competitors.”
Blashill, whose son, Teddy, was serving as dad’s caddy, said it was Nicklaus’ win in the 1986 Masters that got him hooked on golf. And to be playing alongside a boyhood idol was a thrill.
“With him and Mr. Trevino it was unbelievable,” Blashill said. “And Tom Izzo is one of the best coaches in any sport at any time, so to be able to walk nine holes and pick his brain on a lot of stuff was really cool.”
The entire experience was memorable for Blashill.
“I was awestruck walking in,” Blashill said. “I was super fortunate to have met Gordie Howe at the end of his life and I was around Ted Lindsay and had one-on-one conversations with him. It similar when I see these guys. They’re some of the best of all time. It’s really amazing. To say I was awestruck would be an understatement. And they’re super nice people. They treated us unbelievable, my son (Teddy) and I.”
Piot’s star turn
The James Piot tour continues on Saturday as the U.S. Amateur champion was a guest of the tournament and followed the celebrity match.
He also got the opportunity to meet Nicklaus and Trevino for the first time.
“As a golfer and all the history behind (Nicklaus) and what he’s done for the game and being out here just seeing all the names on the leaderboard, it’s surreal,” Piot said. “I don’t believe it, especially being called by the tournament director, ‘Hey, can you show up here? We’d like to have you kind of as a guest of the tournament.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah. I don’t think I’m that big of a deal, but yeah, thank you, I’ll be there.’”