For three decades now, the sports celebrities have descended on York County every June.
Hall of Famers, MVPs and world champions have annually made the pilgrimage to Out Door Country Club.
They’ve come here to tell stories (a few of them even true), share in some good-natured ribbing and play a little golf.
Mainly, however, they’ve come to central Pennsylvania for two compelling reasons.
They want to show respect for a pair of big-hearted former NFL players.
And they want to help out Special Olympics — a charity that does immense good for millions of athletes with intellectual disabilities.
The 30th Eddie Khayat and George Tarasovic Celebrity Golf Classic (formerly known as the York County Special Olympics Celebrity Golf Classic) is set for Monday, June 18, at Out Door.
Over the years, the event has raised in the neighborhood of $800,000 for York County’s Special Olympics athletes.
Khayat and Tarasovic, of course, are the founders of the tournament. They forged a close and lasting friendship during their lengthy pro football careers, and for decades they’ve been the driving forces behind the event.
This year, unfortunately, Khayat and Tarasovic will not be able to attend the tournament because of health issues. Khayat, however, hopes to be back for next year’s event.
“A lot of celebrity tournaments don’t last 30 years,” Khayat said in a phone interview. “It’s just a wonderful thing that so many people are involved to keep it going.”
York County residents step up: Khayat’s right about that. A large number of York County residents have stepped up over the years to take on leadership roles.
Jeff Grove is the chairman of this year’s event. Charles Calkins is a key committee member whose been involved in the tournament since its inception. They plan to step down after this year, and their contributions will certainly be missed.
All signs, however, indicate that the tournament will continue, thanks to the dedication of many other local folks and area businesses, such as this year’s Platinum Sponsor, Victory Athletic Association, and Gold Sponsor, Bunzl USA. Jack Giambalvo, as always, will offer a car to anyone lucky enough to ace a designated par-3 hole.
Big-time celebrities: Some of the celebrities expected to attend this year’s event include current NFL player Tavon Austin and former NFL players Lydell Mitchell, Larry Brown, Lenny Moore, Glenn Ressler, Blair Thomas, Jermaine Lewis and Red Lion High School graduate Scott Fitzkee, among many others.
Since its start, some of the bigger names to show up were Johnny Unitas, Joe Theismann, Chuck Bednarik, Raymond Berry, Artie Donovan, John Hannah, Tommy McDonald and Paul Blair.
That’s a pretty impressive list, especially when you consider that organizers say that not a single celebrity has ever been compensated for attending.
In this day and age, when athletes often demand exorbitant prices to scribble their names or pose for photos, it’s truly a remarkable display of generosity.
“Word of mouth has been very big in our success,” Khayat said. “When players come in and play, they tell other guys, ‘hey, you need to get up to York to get to that one. It’s a great tournament.’ So, every year you get new guys.”
Calkins said Khayat is still heavily involved in the recruitment of celebrities.
“He picks up the phone and he starts shaking the trees and he does a helluva job,” Calkins said.
Special Olympians play big roles: The celebrities, however, are just part of the program. Many of the best moments are provided by the Special Olympians, themselves.
Such as when Tim Moran sings the national anthem. For Calkins, that is one of his favorite moments.
“Tim always assures me that he will sing the anthem ‘softly and slowly,” Calkins said. “It kind of gives me chills just talking about it.”
Calkins said the post-tournament dinner is also one of the event’s highlights.
“It’s really something to see,” he said. “When we have dinner at night and those (Special) Olympians come in and give a little talk, these big, tough football players, who spent years getting their heads bashed in, have tears running down their cheeks. That’s a great moment.”
That’s just one of many great moments at an event that’s become a York County institution over the last three decades.
Here’s hoping that it continues for another 30 years.
Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s still room for some additional foursomes at the golf tournament. The $1,100 foursome fee includes lunch, dinner and golf with a celebrity. To reserve a spot in the field, contact Charles Calkins at 717-848-4900. No day-of-the-event foursome registrations will be accepted.