Absent founders, Penn State football both earn praise from celebrities at golf event

Scott Fitzkee jokes with players at the 29th annual Eddie Khayat–George Tarasovic Celebrity Golf Classic at Out Door Country Club Monday, June 19, 2017. The annual tournament has raised nearly 700,000 for York County Special Olympics. Bill Kalina photo
  • The Eddie Khayat-George Tarasovic Celebrity Golf Classic was held Monday.
  • The founders were unable to attend the tournament.
  • Among the celebrities were Scott Fitzkee, Blair Thomas, Larry Brown and Bill Bradley.

ROUNDTOWN — Pro athletes, past and present, began arriving at Out Door County Club around 10 Monday morning.

They traveled to York to play golf for a cause, joining with local golfers in foursomes to raise money for York County Special Olympics.

Two men were conspicuous by their absence on the extremely warm day — the founders of the Eddie Khayat-George Tarasovic Celebrity Golf Classic.

"Obviously, the tournament is named after Eddie and George, and it's kind of sad to proceed without them," said Allan Pettit, a member of the tournament committee. "The good news is that Eddie has guaranteed he'll be here next year for the 30th tournament. We aren't sure George will be able to attend, but we send them both our love."

The day began, as it always does, with the singing of the national anthem by Special Olympian Tim Moran.

Among those on hand for the event was Red Lion native Scott Fitzkee.

An outstanding three-sport athlete at Red Lion High School, Fitzkee went on to play football for Penn State and the Philadelphia Eagles. He's attended every Special Olympics Tournament but one.

"The people who are here, are so fortunate," Fitzkee said. "We've had people who backed us and gave us opportunities. There's a lot of kids who don't have opportunities. If we can help raise money and raise awareness (about the Special Olympics program), that's what it's all about."

Impressed with Franklin, PSU: Fitzkee, an owner of a roofing company based in the Baltimore area, usually attends two Penn State games each year.

He's impressed with second-year head coach James Franklin.

"I think he's doing a really good job," Fitzkee said. "Everyone was a little leery a year or so ago after they had a couple of losses, and it didn't seem that they were moving forward. But, he (Franklin) had to get his own players in there and get them to buy in (to the program). He has a lot of good players. I'm excited about the program."

Another ex-Penn Stater, former star running back Blair Thomas, also attended Monday's event.

Thomas enjoys watching current Penn State running back, Saquon Barkley.

"He's an outstanding talent," said Thomas, who played at Frankford High School in Philadelphia and for five NFL teams. "He has great vision and is so explosive. The offense is geared to his style."

Thomas, like Fitzkee, thinks Franklin is the right fit in the top spot.

"He's finally getting the pieces in the puzzle," Thomas said. "A lot of people were tough on him last year."

Larry Brown, caregiver: Larry Brown, the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1972, is a caregiver in his retirement years.

"My mom, who's 93, was living in Pittsburgh when she fell," Brown said. "She was in the hospital and then was in a rehab facility. I convinced her to move to Maryland with me, and I've been taking care of her. My brother John, helps out."

Brown, who starred for the Washington Redskins, has only played one round of golf in three years, but he was looking forward to spending the day with the other former athletes along with helping a cause.

A Pittsburgh native (Schenley High School), Brown rushed for 5,875 yards in his career and appeared in four consecutive Pro Bowls.

He feels he has the credentials to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I know at one time that they said longevity was the determining factor, but Terrell Davis is going in (to the Hall of Fame), and I played as long as he did," Brown said.

Khayat lured Bill Bradley: Bill Bradley's brother, Ralph, competed in the Special Olympics.

That's part of the reason the former Philadelphia Eagles' defensive back returns to the Special Olympics Golf Tournament each year. The other reason is to reunite with his old coach, Khayat.

"He asked me to help out, and I came here on my own nickel," said Bradley, a three-time All-Pro who lead the league in interceptions two straight years.

"Eddie's one of our (Bradley and his teammates) favorites," he said. "He has great character, and he was a great player in his day."

Bradley played nine years in the NFL before retiring.

"After five knee operations, I cashed out," he said

Following retirement from the Eagles, Bradley only stayed away from football for a couple of years. He returned to begin a 32-year coaching career, which included stints in three NFL cities: Buffalo, New York (Jets) and San Diego.

"I'm a football junkie," Bradley said. "A lot of guys think if I can play football, I can coach it, but that's not true. I learned from Jim Bates the way to coach."

Bradley retired from coaching three years ago. Bradley may be retired, but he said he still won't hesitate to travel again from his home state of Texas to York if Khayat contacts him about the 30th Special Olympics Golf Tournament.

Nearly $700,000 raised: The Special Olympics Golf Tournament has raised nearly $700,000 for the Special Olympics program during its nearly three-decade run.

Reach Dick VanO'Linda at sports@yorkdispatch.com.