Sports

Reflecting on Golf’s BMW Celeb Pro-Am

Asheville – The recent Master’s golf tournament and Dustin Johnson’s win got as much attention as ever in this activity-restricted pandemic year and sparks memories of a celebrity tourney once played in Asheville.

The BMW Celebrity Pro-Am tourney remains in upstate South Carolina, near western North Carolinians. It is held in late spring—cancelled this year due to the pandemic—and is planned for June 10–13, 2021.

The tourney reduced from three to two courses in 2019, settling on nearby Cliffs Valley just across the NC-SC border and Thornblade Club in Greer, SC. Cliffs Valley has been the tourney’s home base.

Golden Bear Golfs in Asheville

The tourney was held in both Carolinas for many years earlier in this century, even briefly in Asheville, too, at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove. Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus designed the course, which is among the newest of the seven The Cliffs master-planned golf communities that began in 1991. Charlotte-based South Street Partners purchased The Cliffs in early 2019.

“The Golden Bear” helped officially dedicate hilly Walnut Cove in 2005. It is considered the only golf course to officially open with a PGA event. It has earned honor as one of the best golf courses in the state from Golf Digest and as among America’s Best Residential Courses from Golfweek.

One time Nicklaus and all four of his sons golfed in the same BMW tourney. Gary Player, another golfing great, has played in it.

The celebrity pro-am raised money for charities, this year with an online auction despite cancellation of the tourney itself. The tourney’s naming sponsor is SYNNEX Corp. It is on the PGA’s feeder/developmental circuit that was named Nationwide, then Buy.com, and is now sponsored by global consulting/executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry on a ten-year deal through 2028. It is separate from the BMW-sponsored event on the pro-PGA tour.

Costner was King of BMW Celebs

Celebrities in the tourney in 2019 included Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre and current NFL cornerback Patrick Peterson; retired MLB stars Ozzie Smith, Ivan Rodriguez, fred McGriff and Josh Beckett; and actors including Lucas Black, Duck Dynasty TV star Willie Robertson, and Larry the Cable Guy.

Black, who turned 38 on Sunday, is a link from BMW tourneys past to the present. He plays fiery characters. He emerged as quarterback Mike Winchell in the 2004 film Friday Night Lights. He is best known as Scott Bakula‘s main sidekick Christopher LaSalle in NCIS: New Orleans. He was in that role for the first six recent seasons, until his character was killed a year ago.

Another longtime BMW tourney golfer is white-haired actor John O’Hurley. He played J. Peterman, Elaine’s pompous boss on Seinfeld.

The ineup in ’18 included star QB Aaron Rodgers, retired receiver Sterling Sharpe, country artists Rascal Flatts, comic Bill Engvall, actor Rob Riggle, and Richard Schiff from The West Wing.

A decade early celebrities were annually led by actor Kevin Costner. Actor Kurt Russell often played in the BMW. Joe Pesci was in it once and chatted up the crowd as his tough/wise guy character.

Other past participants include musicians Darius Rucker and others of Hootie & the Blowfish and Alice Cooper who shoots a low handicap.

Sports legends in the tourney included hockey’s all-time scorer Wayne Gretzky, baseball slugger Jim Rice, two-time Super Bowl-winning QB John Elway, and Jerry Rice, who is considered the greatest pro receiver ever.