Team of ex-NHL stars wins celebrity tournament

May 16, 1994|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,Ocean City Bureau of The Sun

BERLIN -- Former NHL star Pierre Larouche birdied the 17th hole to give himself and partner Clark Gillies a one-stroke victory against an all-star field yesterday and capture the $20,000 top prize in the NationsBank Celebrity Golf Classic.

Larouche's birdie assured a victory for the two former NHL players, despite a 150-yard eagle on the 18th by former Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt.

An exuberant Gillies shouted, "Yes!" and then embraced Larouche after he made the final putt on the 18th.

The all-star tournament was brought to Ocean City's Eagle's Landing Golf Course by the Celebrity Golf Association, and was the tour's first on the Eastern Shore.

Larouche and Gillies shot an 8-under-par 136. Schmidt teamed with Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench and they finished second, tied with two former New York Yankees, Graig Nettles and Shane Rawley, at 7-under 137.

Three teams came in at 5-under: Mario Lemieux and former Pittsburgh Penguin Dan Quinn tied former major-league pitchers Rick Rhoden and Rollie Fingers and actor Jack Wagner and NFL defensive back Chuck Cecil.

As each of the nine groups competing in the best-ball format finished at the 18th hole, fans lined up for autographs behind the scoring tent.

Although there were some young sports fans in the autograph line, most of the seekers were older.

"I'm so excited. We've been here all four days," said Evelyn Westfall as she clutched a heavily autographed program and waited in the line.

Westfall, whose husband, Hank, is an Ocean City councilman, looked at Atlanta Falcons quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver and sighed. "He's so cute, isn't he?"

The tournament's mood was relaxed, with players and onlookers bantering between shots.

Although the caddies and other volunteers held up "Quiet" signs while players actually hit, the noise level was high at the 18th hole: the Ocean City airport is on one side and the Humane Society's kennel on the other. The dogs barked steadily; the planes were more noisy but less frequent.

But Schmidt's eagle on the 18th apparently had the power to silence even the dogs, as well as the crowd, which gasped before breaking into applause.

"It was a good shot," said Schmidt. "I may never make another one the rest of my life."

Tournament organizers were pleased with the tour's first visit to the Shore.

"It was really great," said Tom Perlozzo, Ocean City's director of parks and recreation and also director of golf at the city-run Eagle's Landing. "We got 36 athletes who are household names."

The Ocean City tournament was the second stop on the six-tournament tour, which began in Orlando, Fla., last month.

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