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Celebrities tee off today in benefit at Black Diamond

Published Oct. 9, 2005

Professional athletes who made their mark in baseball, hockey, football and basketball gather at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto today to let the competitive juices flow again.

But the usual tools of their trade will be replaced by golf balls and clubs as four players from each of the major sports form teams for the Big League Golf Challenge benefitting the American Cancer Society.

Black Diamond general manager Terry LaGree said Tuesday that pitcher Rick Rhoden has accepted an invitation to become the final celebrity in a 16-player field.

"We're very pleased with the final list of participants and are looking forward to it," LaGree said. "The big emphasis is the potential exposure for Black Diamond and Citrus County through broadcasting on cable TV that will go throughout the nation. We hope only good things will happen from it and that we can continue to hold this event for the next three to five years."

Prime Sports Network plans to tape the challenge and air it Aug. 2. SportsChannel America also will tape it for broadcast Aug. 22.

Sports celebrities who will participate are Major League Baseball's Jim "Mudcat" Grant, Mike Cuellar, Gorman Thomas and Rhoden; the National Hockey League's Bernie Nicholls, Don Edwards, Grant Fuhr and Rick Martin; former National Football League players Dick Anderson, Donny Anderson, Dick Jauron and Dick LeBeau; and National Basketball Association players Kiki Vandeweghe, Rick Barry, Len "Truck" Robinson and Stan Pietkiewicz.

One adjustment to the format was announced. Originally, the athletes were to play 54 holes in two days with the 10 lowest scores advancing to a nine-hole shootout Saturday. But time constraints have prompted a reduction to 45 holes of play leading up to the shootout.

A pro-am event where each athlete plays with a group of sponsors and VIPs kicks off the challenge today at 2 p.m. Athletes only move on to competition Friday, with 18 holes of match play beginning at 8:30 a.m. and nine holes of best-ball action in the afternoon.

The Quarry holes (Nos. 10-18) will provide the backdrop for Saturday's shootout, which begins at 9 a.m. One golfer will be eliminated on each hole until a winner is decided.

Black Diamond will not be open to the public during the Big League Challenge.