TARPON SPRINGS — Ideal weather, a star-studded field and a great cause led to a record turnout for the 2019 Kimberly Knorr Memorial Celebrity Golf Tournament, a fundraiser for Tarpon Springs based nonprofit Wheelchairs4Kids held Jan. 24 at Cypress Run Golf Club.
The full field, combined with an event skewed towards fun more than serious athletic endeavor — the 1p.m. shotgun start kicked off with a celebratory shot of booze — was the equivalent of a 300-yard drive straight down the fairway, according to organizers.
“It’s supposed to be all about fun,” Wheelchairs4Kids Executive Director Madeline Robinson said of the tourney, which is named after the charity’s founding board member and president, Kim Knorr. “This is not a stuffy tournament. It’s fun, and it’s getting bigger every year.”
Indeed, 26 four-person teams registered to be paired with a celebrity golfer from a lineup that included former Tampa Bay Buccaneers QBs Vinny Testaverde and Steve DeBerg; current Major League Baseball player Ian Desmond; former major leaguers Carl Everett and Toby Hall; Buccaneers wide receiver Adam Humphries; and former NFL players Earl Christy, Corey Ivy and Shelton Quarles.
The loose atmosphere was evident before tee-off, as current and former players mingled with each other and their playing partners while some hit the putting green and the driving range.
After receiving putting tips from W4K board member Jim Grant and posing for pictures with a couple of Wing House servers, Humphries, who has exceled as receiver since the Buccaneers signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Clemson in 2015, said it was the laid-back vibe and worthy cause that brought him to Tarpon Springs during the offseason.
“Someone in the organization reached out and asked if I wanted to play and I said absolutely, a fun, charity tournament is always good,” South Carolina native Humphries, said. “I heard it was a great event for a great cause, so I’m all-in.”
The cause was highlighted when Robinson presented a 3-year-old identified only as Isaac I. with an adaptive tricycle. Isaac is the latest in a long list of youngsters with physical disabilities the charity has helped by providing everything from custom wheelchairs and trikes to home and auto enhancements.
“This is such a wonderful organization,” Tarpon Springs resident Kim Provedenti, who wears a prosthetic leg, said. “In the 70s, when I was a kid, they didn’t have anything like this. Now, with these events and platforms to help get the word out, they help not just local kids, but kids all over the state and around the country.”
According to Hall, a former Tampa Bay Rays catcher and longtime Wheelchairs4Kids supporter, the nonprofit group’s plan is to build off its growing popularity to help more children.
“The support has grown since we started doing it, and the word of mouth is getting out,” Hall said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is kids grow out of their chairs so quick and many expenses aren’t covered by insurance, so it’s a huge financial burden.
“So, we’re going to keep trying to build this and get people to donate, because this is about being able to help families get the right tools for their kids.”
Before the teams climbed aboard their carts and headed to the course, Robinson led a pre-round toast that paid tribute to Knorr, who passed away while organizing the inaugural tournament.
“Four years ago, Kim Knorr was working on our first golf tournament and, unfortunately, she passed away before it ran,” she told the large group of golfers that gathered in a semicircle outside the clubhouse. “But thankfully, her husband jumped in and helped keep it together, and we had the tournament — and another one, and another one—and today we are here for the fourth one. So, let’s have some fun, help some kids and keep Kim’s memory alive.”
“Cheers,” the group responded as one before downing the shots and hitting the links.