Celebs tee off at Bright’s Creek for BMW Charity Pro-Am

Published 8:28 am Friday, May 16, 2008

&bsp;Sterling Sharpe&bsp;Mike and Linda Black stood behind the driving range and watched as the golf professionals, celebrities and amateurs practiced teeing off on Thursday morning at Bright&squo;s Creek Golf Club in Coopers Gap Township.

In the middle of the group of golfers stood former Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Kordell Stewart.

The Blacks, who lived in Polk County from 1974 to 1987, were amazed at the growth of the county and its ability to pull such a big tournament.

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&dquo;When we were here, there was just one Hardee&squo;s and one gas station,&dquo; Mike Black said.

&dquo;This is definitely a big event for Polk County.&dquo;

The golfers and spectators were gathered at Bright&squo;s Creek for the BMW Charity Pro-Am Golf Tournament, which raises money for area charities.

The stars playing the Pro-Am this year will rotate between Bright&squo;s Creek, Thornblade in Greenville, S.C., and Carolina Country Club in Spartanburg on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with finals scheduled for Sunday.

Paired with professionals on the Nationwide Tour, the celebrities hope to draw in a crowd to raise money for many regional charities.

The first seven BMW Charity Pro-Ams raised more than $5.7 million for more than 80 charities.

The professional winner of the tournament will take home $121,500 of the $675,000 purse.

The amateurs and celebrities will compete for individual prizes and cash prizes that they can donate to the charity of their choice in this year&squo;s local beneficiaries.

With overcast skies on Thursday, the players, including celebrities like hockey player Wayne Gretsky, Full House star Dave Coulier, football players Sterling Sharpe and Stewart and movie star Kurt Russell played their way through the hills at Bright&squo;s Creek as a few scattered fans followed.

Russell had the largest following as he teed off on No. 10 a little after 9 a.m. After an hour or more on the course, as he put the ball in the hole on No. 16, he was greeted by fans from Spartanburg and was signing autographs.

Only halfway through, he&squo;d already formed an opinion of the course hidden in the hills of Mill Spring.

&dquo;It&squo;s a nice course,&dquo; he said with a smile as he signed a picture of himself.

And he was was off with his entourage in tow, ready to finish off the back nine.

Many more celebrities will tee off today and Saturday as the BMW Charity Pro-Am continues.

Luke Wilson, Greg Kinnear, Dennis Quaid and Joe Pesci are among the celebrities who will be on the course today (see page 8 for more information about the celebrities appearing at Bright&squo;s Creek on Saturday).&bsp;Kevin Sorbo&bsp;Wayne Gretzky, left, at Bright’s Creek Thursday. (photos by Gary Clark)