Former pro athletes tee off for a good cause at Schaffer’s Mill in Truckee | SierraSun.com

Former pro athletes tee off for a good cause at Schaffer’s Mill in Truckee

The ninth annual Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Classic teed off on Monday, July 10, for 18 holes of play to raise funds for the Tahoe Forest Health System, the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center, and the Tahoe Institute for Rural Health Science.

This year's players included former National Football League greats Marcus Allen, Tim Brown, Marshall Faulk, Cornelius Bennett, Mike Haynes, Herm Edwards, and others. Also playing in the tournament were former Major League Baseball players J.T. Snow and Scott Erickson, and National Hockey League player T.J. Oshie.

"It's awesome to come out here to play in this tournament, but the most important part of this is first of all — the legacy of Gene Upshaw and what that legacy is doing for this area," Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk said. "It's amazing to see all the entities around here in this community support this organization and what they're trying to do."

Gene Upshaw was a Pro Football Hall of Fame guard for the Oakland Raiders.

He was also a member of the bargaining committee for the NFL Player's Association in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and also served as the NFLPA's executive director.

While at his home in Lake Tahoe in August of 2008, Upshaw fell ill. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on Aug. 17, and passed away three days later.

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A year later, his wife Terri Upshaw began the Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Classic, and has since raised over $1.2 million for medical innovation and research, according to the tournament's website.

"Every year we say we can't top it and every year it gets better and better," said Terri Upshaw. "Every year we say, 'How is this going to happen and how can we improve?' It seems to just take off, and we sell out. People hear about it. They want to be a part of it."

Schaffer's Mill Golf & Lake Club in Truckee has hosted the event for the past three years on its 7,010-yard, par-71 golf course.

"Every single year we find better ways to do things, better processes," said Managing Partner John Marlin. "It just keeps getting better and better, and the amount of money we raise keeps increasing. It's been fantastic."

The round of golf was played as a shamble format with a foursome being paired up with a celebrity player. Shamble formats are where the players select the one best drive among them. They then play their own balls until finishing the hole.

Prices to play in the tournament were $1,250 per person or $5,000 for a foursome. Twenty-five teams of five played in the tournament.

"Anything for Gene Upshaw," Hall of Fame receiver Tim Brown said of playing in the tournament. "He was an incredible man, incredible leader, incredible father, and to keep his name going you do what you have to do — including coming to a beautiful resort and playing golf. It's a very difficult job for us."

Former Olympic athlete and NFL wide receiver Willie Gault and his teammates Eleanor Preger, Bob Preger, Chase Stigall, and Andrew Bonaldi won the tournament with a combined score of 97.

"We just had fun and played well, and it's for a good cause," Gault said. "Gene Upshaw meant a lot to a lot of people – head of the union. Really helped us to fight for our rights as players, and his wife Terri is carrying on his tradition. This is a great organization. "

Finishing in second place was Marcus Allen's team at 100, followed by former NFL defensive lineman Otis Sistrunk's team at 103.

"It's amazing to see how far they've come, and what a great event it is. We had a lot of fun," Allen said.

"Gene was a good friend and mentor. We used to go at it at times, but I had the greatest of respect for him. When I was a 22-year-old rookie, Gene was in his 16th year in the NFL, and he was almost like a big brother, kind of looking out for me. So it's great to come up here and to continue to perpetuate his legacy."