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Fan Vote Determines Winner of First Annual Pro Sports Team Challenge

By: Jay Flemma


[Author's Note: Due to contractual restrictions with broadcast partner Fox Sports Net, we cannot post scores until after the televised broadcast June 28 and 29. We will, however provide some insights into how YOUR favorite athletes performed.]

You couldn't have asked for more excitement. Pins and needles, the edge of your seat, a gnashing of teeth, "gosh I can't look" as you peered between your fingers: pick your aphorism, but Hollywood couldn't have written a better script. The fan voting determined the winner of the first annual Pro Sports Team Challenge celebrity golf tournament.

The two-day tournament, which united four superstars each from baseball basketball, football, and hockey, was a combination reunion, party, joke-fest, and feisty golf battle. After a round robin, best-ball and scramble format on the first day, the players locked horns in a modified skins format on day two. Handicaps were used, so weaker players like Michael Strahan (a 12 handicap) and LaDainian Tomlinson (15) had a fighting chance against aces like George Gervin and Mario Lemieux.

The format delivered tension from the opening tee shot. After Day 1, a mere eight points separated the four teams. As Day 2 dawned, the desert provided the first heat. It was hot. How hot was it? It was so hot one "Z" melted out of Ozzie Smith's name. It was so hot Drew Brees's hair caught fire, (as well as his golf game). It was so hot the lightning bolt on Tomlinson's golf shirt supercharged and blew a palm tree to kingdom come. You get the idea.

Nevertheless, the players' games sizzled just as much. For Team Basketball, "Iceman" Gervin might have well been Mr. Freeze, firing a snowy ray gun with one hand and "grab a chair" harpoon-like wedge shots with the other. He was under par for the day. Clyde Drexler holed out a gap wedge on one par-5 for eagle as patrons shrieked in delight. Team Football was equal to the task, with John Elway carding a searing round and Brees melting the middle nine holes of the golf course with fiery drives and laser irons.

"It was a heck of a battle," Brees said as he wiped his brow. "I played well, but I had Pierre Larounche from Team Hockey challenging me all day. He played really well." Indeed, Larouche started like a house afire, carding plenty of points early and surging hockey to the top of the leaderboard after four holes. "Yeah, Pierre was our bulldog," said Team Hockey captain Mario Lemieux, who battled Elway all day, as well as Team Baseball Captain Ozzie Smith and Clyde the Glide. "What a tough foursome."

Nevertheless, no lead was safe with the 2x players on the course. The top three teams traded the lead back and forth at the speed of light - or the Internet. Using the "strat.e.golf" Internet platform, where a fan vote determined a player for each team whose score was worth double points. The vote proved pivotal, as the 2x player provided the margin of victory.

"I love the format," gushed an excited fan, Peter Vindrow from Seattle. "It may seem like a long way to travel for a celebrity golf tournament, but I have a house here. The format promised excitement and it delivered. We had no idea who was going to win until the last putt dropped and nobody was able to pull away with 2x players out on the course."

The players competed for a total purse of $250,000 for charity, with $100,000 going to the winning team. Old friends and bitter rivals came together in an altruistic quest to help America's troops abroad (USO, Team Basketball's Charity), children whose lives were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina (Operation Kids, Team Football), cancer victims (Hockey Fights Cancer), and members of the extended baseball family who have fallen on hard times (the Baseball Assistance Team).

"I was so happy for the charities and for the fans," said a genuinely grateful Tom Belton, CEO of Team Challenge. "Not only did we have a large purse to divide between four terrific causes, but the athletes and format generated so much excitement, I was really moved. As I saw the last group walk down 18 with three teams in the running, it proved to everyone that the format of Internet fan voting and accelerated scoring [where match play matches count for more than one point, but tally points for each hole won and each hole closed out early] - is thrilling and has a future in team golf formats."

Indeed, standing at the scorers table watching sports legends biting their nails and feverishly waiting for results from active matches was exhilarating to players and fans alike. It was a fierce competition and proved the fans thirst for new forms of team golf and match play scoring, as well as some participation. Their picks made all the difference.

"The concept of the 2X player is wonderful," echoed Ozzie Smith. "When we saw who the fans picked, we knew that the player would be honored and inspired to play even harder than ever."

"The captains used it to their advantage," echoed Ed Ellis, Team Challenge VP of Golf Operations. "The idea of bring the fans into the game is a concept whose time has come and fits well not only with celebrities, but team golf in general. Moreover, you can't just play conservatively because even a big lead can whittle away like lightning."

"It provides some oomph," agreed Bobby Reid, a fan from Sacramento. "It came of age today in front of the Fox TV cameras. It's here to stay and golf just added a whole new dimension."



Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, http://www.jayflemma.thegolfspace.com, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 220 nationally ranked public golf courses in 37 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer (www.golfobserver.com), Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy and Emmy awards, won a Sundance Film Festival Best Director award, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. Jay lives in Forest Hills, N.Y., and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.