Kevin's Golf Tournament
by Jan Feighner (Sorbowriter)
The 3rd Annual Kevin Sorbo Celebrity Golf Tournament occurred September 23 through 25, at the Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, California. Benefiting A World Fit For Kids! (wordfitforkids.org) the three-day event consisted of a wine and cheese pairings party on Friday night, choice of attending a wine tour or the tournament on Saturday, Kevin’s birthday dinner and silent auction on Saturday night, and an outdoor rock concert on Sunday.
I decided to go this year for the first time; my friend Joyce accompanied me. We left Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, September 22, not without some flight delays. We arrived in San Francisco around 7 p.m. that evening, waited on line for a rental car, and finally headed to Napa. En route we passed a highway sign for the town of Hercules (I really wanted to take a picture, but it was too dark and I was driving). We pulled into the beautiful Silverado Resort around 10 p.m., checked in, and found our small suite. Once settled, we drove back to the main building where we had checked in, and relaxed in a cozy, dimly-lit bar complete with welcoming fireplace. We practically had the place to ourselves.
Friday morning we arose early to explore Silverado’s expansive grounds. The weather was sunny and warm - perfect for walking and taking photos. We found the swimming pools, tennis courts, several restaurants, and (golf) driving range. We toured the golf course and located the outdoor pairings party setting. Then we drove to Napa for lunch and more exploring.
The Napa Valley in California is renowned for its wine and inherent beauty. The small town of Napa, nestled amid brown mountains and bisected by a slow river, offers streets lined with historic and modern structures from storefront shops and condominiums to markets and restaurants, and, yes, winery outlets.
Joyce and I strolled along Main Street, occasionally veering off to peek in some little boutique or eatery. We dined at Fish Story (fishstorynapa.com), a lovely restaurant with its patio overlooking the Napa River. We both ordered fish (surprise!), and our fantastic waiter, Israel, kindly gave me Chef Clint Davies’ excellent coleslaw recipe, with his permission, of course.
We returned to Silverado to partake of a wine tasting, and found the place abuzz with activity as limousines and town cars delivered tournament guests like talented actor Chris Rich, former football great Nick Lowery, and famed aerospace engineer Burt Rutan. The previous day’s quiet ended, and excitement began!
Friday night’s pairings party during which golfers discovered with whom they were partnered for the tournament that combined with another pair to form a foursome, each foursome travelling behind another pers hole during the match, was as interesting as it was fun. Held outdoors under a starry sky, the event offered a banquet of cheeses and various Napa Valley wines in a tastefully fenced area bedecked with summery overhead lanterns. We met numerous friendly people from across the country and all walks of life, including the fine A World Fit For Kids! (WFIT) staff. Everyone mingled easily since many already knew each other. It seemed like a happy family reunion.
Sam arrived solo at some point, but having never met her in person, I didn’t want to bother her with introductions and photos. Kevin was apparently on his way from his stint in Estepona, Spain, and we anxiously awaited his appearance.
Kevin came looking as anyone would after a long flight followed by a three-hour car ride. Make no mistake, he was still as gorgeous and gracious as ever, but admitted to being a little fatigued. Nick Lowery stood at the stage podium and delivered a short speech. He introduced WFIT Executive Director Normandie Nigh, who also said a few words. Then it was Kevin’s turn.
He mainly discussed WFIT and its incredible programs that combat childhood obesity, prepare students for employment and college, and teach mentoring, among other things. He thanked everyone for coming and showing their support for this worthy cause. He then handed the microphone to comedian Scott Henry, who stole the show!
Later, I pestered Kevin for a photo. He introduced me to Sam and we hugged. Boy, did I feel short sandwiched between the two of them! Before they left he kissed my cheek. Wow! He completely caught me off-guard. I don’t remember much after that… HA!
Saturday morning I drove to the tournament at Eagle Vines Golf Course and Joyce joined the wine tour. The beautiful Eagle Vines clubhouse featured a nice pro shop and cheerful dining room where a breakfast feast fed the tournament crowd. Its patio overlooked the course’s back nine situated in an idyllic valley surrounded by mountains, trees, and grape vines. Bright sunlight peered over the horizon, dissipating translucent fog that blanketed the region and promised a gorgeous, albeit extremely windy day.
My assignment as a volunteer was to measure the closest balls to the 8th Hole cup on the green from a golfer’s tee-off a few hundred yards away. The top five winners there placed in the running for a Hole-in-One competition at the match’s end to win a convertible Spyker car. Several holes sported various challenges to narrow the top 10 tournament golfers who would eventually vie for the prize.
Needless to say, I vigilantly waited for Kevin’s foursome. They finally appeared at the 8th Hole’s tee box a couple hundred yards away and up a hill where each took his initial shot, or tee-off. My amazing camera’s zoom lens allowed me to watch and photograph Kevin tee off. I marveled at his intense concentration and controlled strength as he nailed his ball out of the tee box, landing it on the green 45 feet from the cup in front of me. The foursome drove their two carts to the green where I measured Kevin’s shot that placed him in the running for the final Hole-in-One competition.
They rotated turns putting, and I tried to get some good pictures of Kevin without disturbing anyone. (Golf is a game that demands no distractions.) Unfortunately, the strong wind jostled my camera lens, so I acquired more butt shots than I intended since that was never my intent! Kevin missed his putt and actually said, “ARRGGGHH!” just like he does when writing about such things on Facebook and Twitter. I suppressed a giggle while filming a short video of it. Too funny!
When they finished, the first pair drove away, and Kevin crawled into the driver’s seat ready to follow. I waved and said something like, “Good luck!” whereupon Kevin leaned to his partner, said,” Take our picture,” and hopped out beside me. Being camera-shy I prayed to not look goofy, but Kevin’s easy-going manner disarmed me. So, I jokingly stretched my hand behind his head in the two-fingered “devil sign,” and declared, “Too bad I’m too short to do one of these!” Fortunately, he laughed. Whew! The other guy maintained that the first shot was blurry and took a second one with Kevin hamming it up and me standing there with my typical, “I’ve been hit in the head with a board,” expression. (Needless to say, he looks great in both! Me… not so much…)
They sped to the next hole and continued their game. I stayed at the 8th Hole to finish measuring the tournament’s remaining players’ tee shots, and met some very nice people unaffiliated with the event. One lady came within 4 feet of the cup from her tee-off, and when they arrived to play through, I told her that so far she was the winner, even besting Kevin! She laughingly cried, “I beat Hercules!”
The clubhouse after the match hummed with electricity as everyone relaxed, had drinks, and chatted. With the final results tallied winners received their prizes. Kevin won a golf bag, having smashed his ball through a plastic-covered frame that showed tee-off force; his was the most powerful and he signed it, “Hercules.” Nice! The top 10 participants who qualified for the Hole-in-One playoff then rallied around the tee to begin their attempts. Kevin, of course, was one of them.
As luck would have it the professional photographer didn’t bring a video camera, and the tournament producers wanted to film the hole for legal reasons, or so I was told when they asked if I would do it with my camera. Very cool! So, I positioned myself at the rough’s edge with my lens focused on the cup. The first ball whizzed into the rough to my right, but shortly after I heard a whirring sound very close to my head. Whoever shot that ball almost beaned me, and all I could do was turn away and hope. It landed inches from my left shoulder. Yeah, I still thought it was cool despite that I could have had a concussion or worse; I felt useful at this awesome tournament, which was good enough for me…
As people filtered back to Silverado, I met with Normandie and Dr. Andi Fletcher, the Birthday Project/Fan Sponsorship’s recipient. We talked for quite a while. (They are both such amazing people! Please see my interview with Andi for more.)
Back in our suite at Silverado Joyce and I compared our days’ notes. She spoke very highly of Sam and the other ladies who chose the wine tour. Their small group had as much fun travelling to wineries and sampling Napa Valley’s finest vintages as we did at Eagle Vines.
Kevin’s birthday dinner and silent auction were next on the agenda, and neither disappointed. The auction offered such things as artwork, golf items, novelties, and services. People mingled and laughed freely, having become closer friends throughout the day.
Dinner consisted of a huge buffet in an open air banquet room. Salad, cooked vegetables, and scrumptious meats lined the tables. Everyone remarked about the generous spread and no one walked away hungry.
Kevin hosted a raffle and awarded prizes. Guitarist Mike Rayburn and saxophonist Ski Johnson provided entertainment, including an amazing impromptu jam and happy birthday song to Kevin. I filmed most of it, capturing some really great music vids!
The party wrapped and some of us retired to the bar. Our friendships solidified, we vowed to keep in touch. Since we thought we’d see each other on Sunday, many of us deferred to going to bed for a fresh start in the morning to exchange information.
Unbeknownst to us, Sam had received a phone call from her sister sometime on Saturday. Kevin and Sam’s oldest son, Braeden (Biwa), had broken his hand so badly while playing football that he required surgery. She and Kevin had departed early Sunday morning, which created a mass exodus of all but three of us still willing to attend the rock concert a few miles away just outside of Sonoma.
We drove through many beautiful towns and absorbed incredible scenery on our trip to the concert. We encountered a few snags at the outdoor venue and decided instead to spend the day at an arts and wine tasting festival in Sonoma. Oh, my! What fun! But, that’s a different story…
Kevin obviously finds peace on the links. His mastery of the game is impressive; his enthusiasm, contagious. Golf seems like a metaphor for his life in which he remains unstoppable.
I wish to thank Kevin, Sam, WFIT, and everyone involved with this excellent tournament and organization. I especially extend my extreme gratitude to Lindsey, Anne, and Heidi for combining our fundraising efforts and more to help Kevin and WFIT; and to all of you for your donations and continued support. Thanks, everyone!