This year’s Danny Thompson Memorial golf tournament has been dedicated to the memory of its co-founder, baseball Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew from Payette, Idaho.
Killebrew died of esophageal cancer in Arizona May 17 at the age of 74. He co-founded the Danny Thompson Memorial golf tournament with business partner Ralph Harding in 1977. And it has been held at the Sun Valley resort ever since.
Georgie Fenton of Ketchum, tournament director for 17 years, said she expects a full field of 200 golfers for the 35th annual tournament that runs Wednesday, Aug. 17 through Saturday, Aug. 20 on the Sun Valley and Elkhorn courses.
“This year’s tournament is dedicated to Harmon Killebrew and members of the Killebrew family are coming,” she said.
Killebrew belted 573 home runs in 22 major league seasons for the Washington Senators and Minnesota Twins. Infielder Danny Thompson was a Twins teammate of Killebrew. After Thompson died of leukemia in 1976 at the age of 29, recently retired major leaguer Killebrew and Harding founded the tournament designed to raise money for leukemia research.
In 34 years, the Thompson Memorial has raised over $11 million for cancer research, split between University of Minnesota Cancer Research Center in Minneapolis and St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI) of Boise.
Net proceeds for leukemia research from last year’s tournament were $650,000. Since MSTI opened in 1969, it has become Idaho’s largest provider of cancer care services. And the Thompson golf tournament has become an integral part of MSTI. Fenton said, “We give the largest single annual donation to St. Luke’s.”
Fenton added, “Due to the participation and support of nationally known celebrities and sponsors, the tournament has not only raised in excess of $11 million that has gone directly to leukemia and cancer research, but over the years these funds have been used in various matching grant programs leveraged to the million dollar level annually.”
She said she is pleased with this year’s sponsor turnout that includes several new sponsors. US Bank remains the tournament’s highest-level “Diamond Sponsor.” Zions Bank is the “Gold Sponsor.” J.R. Simplot Co. and Washington Companies are “Silver Sponsors.”
“Premier Sponsors” are Corbett Industries, Apogee Enterprises, Qualcomm, Sun Valley Resort and Textron.
A social and fund-raising highlight of the upcoming tournament is the 17th annual Thompson Memorial live and silent auction Friday, Aug. 19 in the Limelight Room of Sun Valley Inn. Auctioneer is Larry Flynn. The evening will include the Killebrew dedication.
Auction items include trips to the Kentucky Derby and Tuscany, jewelry, a motorcycle, golf cart and a trip to the 2012 Ryder Cup golf tournament.
Celebrities, politicians are due
Joe Washington, Jerry Kramer and Bobby Grich and Jack Marin are among the sports figures expected here for the Thompson Aug. 17-20.
Although he would have dearly loved to attend a tournament dedicated to his friend Killebrew, Hall of Fame third baseman and longtime Thompson tournament golfer Brooks Robinson has withdrawn due to health issues.
Other well-known figures expected are baseball players Jim Nettles and Mike Sweeney; ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman; actors Arte Johnson and Lyle Waggoner; and musician Muzzie Braun.
Thompson politicians expected in 2011 are the following, all except one coming from the U.S. Congress:
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-Ky.); Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Id.); Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Id.); Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.); Rep. Joe Baca (D-Ca.); Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.); Sen. Jim Risch (R-Id.); Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Id.); Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Id.); and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R).
Here is the schedule:
Wednesday, Aug. 17: Benefit concert featuring Huey Lewis & The News 8 p.m., Sun Valley Pavilion. From 1-4 p.m. a private NetJets open aircraft display at Atlantic Aviation.
Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 17-18: Registration 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on the Sun Valley Inn Limelight Room terrace and promenade. Practice rounds all day on the Sun Valley and Elkhorn golf courses.
Thursday, Aug. 18: Western-style welcome barbecue 6 p.m. on the Trail Creek Cabin grounds. Tournament pairings distributed there. Practice rounds all day.
Friday, Aug. 19: First 18-hole round of the Thompson Memorial tournament, with 9 a.m. shotgun starts at Sun Valley and Elkhorn. Ladies luncheon, fashion show and fly fishing demonstration at 11:30 a.m.
Harmon Killebrew dedication, cocktails and auction dinner at 6 p.m. in the Limelight Room of Sun Valley Inn. The 26th annual Chairman’s Award will be revealed.
Saturday, Aug. 20: Final 18-hole round of the Thompson Memorial, with 9 a.m. shotgun starts on the Elkhorn and Sun Valley courses. Awards reception 5:30 p.m. at the new Sun Valley Golf Course clubhouse. Ladies hold a nine-hole scramble golf tournament today at 10 a.m. at Bigwood Golf Course.
This year’s celebrities
Here’s a look at this year’s Thompson celebrity list:
Jack Marin, 66, a 6-7 small forward/guard from Farrell, Pa. and Duke University, averaged 14.9 ppg for Duke from 1963-66 and played 12 seasons in the National Basketball Association from 1966-77 with the Baltimore Bullets, Houston Rockets, Buffalo Braves and Chicago Bulls. The two-time All-Star scored 12,541 points in 849 games, a 14.8 ppg average.
After his retirement, Marin went back to Duke and earned his law degree in 1980. He served three years from 1998-2000 as executive director of the Celebrity Players Golf Tour. Focusing on sports law, Marin has been involved with a law firm in Richmond, Va. He is active with the U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warriors program at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
A first-time Thompson Memorial participant is recently retired major league baseball player Mike Sweeney, 38, from Orange, Ca. The first baseman and designated hitter played 13 seasons from 1995-2007 for the Kansas City Royals, where he was captain. Five-time All-Star Sweeney finished up with Oakland, Seattle and Philadelphia, where last fall he made his only post-season appearance.
Sweeney batted .297 for his career with 215 homers and 909 RBI. He set a Royals club record of 144 RBI in 2000 and was second in the American League in batting at .340 in 2002. A devout Catholic, fluent in Spanish, he was known as one of the nicest guys in sports.
For eight years Sweeney has been married to the former Shara Nettles, daughter of Jim Nettles, another Thompson golfer this year. They have three children. The couple has also established the Mike and Shara Sweeney Family Foundation with themes of love, family and youth. The foundation sponsors “The Sween Team,” which invites youth ministries to attend major league baseball games.
Other celebrities in 2011:
Bobby Grich, 62, a Michigan native, came out of WilsonHigh School in Long Beach, Calif. He played 17 American League seasons for Baltimore and the California Angels from 1970-86 and logged a .266 career batting average in 2,008 games. The 6-2, 190-pounder was a six-time All-Star and four-time Golden Glove winner at second base.
Joe Washington, 57, a native of Crockett, Texas, was a two-time All-American running back at the University of Oklahoma, a program that won national titles in 1974-75 with Washington doing this thing. He had a successful National Football League career and won a Super Bowl title with the Washington Redskins.
Jim Nettles, 64, of San Diego, is the younger brother of New York Yankees third sacker Graig Nettles. Lefty Jim Nettles played for the Minnesota Twins from 1970-72 and ended its six-year major league career with Oakland in 1981.
Entertainment celebrity, Lyle Waggoner, 76, was a ruggedly handsome actor and model from Kansas City best known for his roles on television’s “Carol Burnett Show” from 1967-74 and “Wonder Woman” from 1975-79. The first centerfold for Playgirl magazine in 1973, Waggoner lives near Jackson Hole and spends time as a sculptor.