Wine and Gold on the Green(s)

September 24, 2013
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Tyler Zeller

On a crisp Monday morning, over 200 golfers in the 28th annual Cavaliers Youth Fund Golf Classic teed off for the third consecutive year at Firestone Country Club in Akron.

But not even the chilly fall weather could cool off the perennial fundraising event – which once again generated proceeds that will go to the Cavaliers Youth Fund, which supports programs created to benefit young people in the areas of education, recreation, employment and life skills with a particular emphasis on programs aimed toward at-risk youth. Since the fund’s origin in 1993, over $22 million has been granted through CYF to local non-profit groups.

This year’s outing featured the entire current Cavs roster, plus the usual gathering of Cavalier legends like Austin Carr, Campy Russell, Terrell Brandon, Larry Nance and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (more on Big Z in a minute). Some of the celebrity golfers included current Cavs executives as well as GM Chris Grant and Head Coach Mike Brown.

Some other observations from Monday’s annual event on the links …

  • As great as the day was for the Cavaliers, it was just as good for the organization’s D-League affiliate – the Canton Charge. Not only did new head coach, Steve Hetzel’s group win the West Course’s scramble tournament (beating Team Ilgauskas by a single stroke), but the Charge also hired a new assistant – two-time NBA Champion and the pride of Twinsburg, James Posey.

    Posey, 36, played 12 NBA seasons – 864 games with 479 starts – for six different teams, averaging 8.6 points and 4.7 boards per contest. He won league titles with the Heat in 2006 and Celtics in 2008. The former Xavier standout was guest of the Cavs coaching staff at this year’s Summer League stretch in Vegas, gaining some valuable hands-on experience. He’ll join Hetzel’s staff when the Charge tip off their third season in a few weeks.

    “James will be a relatable presence who can give our players direct examples of experiences and insight from what we will be coaching them,” said Hetzel. “I’m extremely excited he is going to be with us this season and really look forward to getting started with him.”

  • Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ group on Monday finished second to Hetzel’s foursome in the West Course scramble. Last year, Big Z was a true duffer. But the big man’s golf game is improving rapidly. (He was even a little beat after just flying back to Cleveland after attending his third wedding in four weekends – including Anderson Varejao’s huge nuptials in Brazil, which he simply described as “crazy.” Andy’s former teammate, Anthony Parker, was also on-hand.)
  • So much can go wrong in a swing that starts from seven feet in the air, but Z’s beginning to get this golf thing down. He hit a couple clunkers, but in a four-man scramble, it’s a total team game; everyone pitches in where they can. Either way, it was a blast to chauffer the Cavs’ legendary center for the day.

  • After all the groups finished up, everyone gathered at the 19th hole for a cocktail reception and the chance to bid on some really nice sports memorabilia at the silent auction, which also contributed to the Cavaliers Youth Fund.
  • At the outset of the reception, Tristan Thompson came on stage with Cavs minority owner and Vice Chairman Nate Forbes, Chris Grant and team president Len Komoroski to welcome the Cavaliers presenting partner for the 2013-14 season --- Discount Drug Mart. Tristan then presented Discount Drug Mart’s COO Doug Boodjeh, Sr. VP or Marketing Dave Baytosh and VP of Advertising David Bergman with their own No. 13 Cavalier “DDM” jerseys.

  • The entire Cavaliers roster (sans rookie Sergey Karasev, who’s still playing for the Russian National Team at the Eurobasket tourney and is traveling in from Russia this week) made an appearance at the CYF Golf Classic. The players cruised thought the course, stopping to chat with golfers along the way. The most entertaining cart might have been the one containing Cleveland’s Canadian connection – Tristan Thompson and No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett.
  • But maybe the most courageous current Cavalier might have been Tyler Zeller, who actually golfed in Monday’s outing.

    We talked to the sophomore seven-footer after he and his group returned to the clubhouse …

    Did you volunteer or did they ask you?

    Tyler Zeller: I don’t really know how it worked out. (laughs) I know Chris Grant helped me find somebody to get fitted for clubs. I think that’s probably where it came from. He knew I had clubs, and the next thing I knew I was playing in the outing!

    But it was fun. I haven’t played in two or three years. I’m one of those people: I play once or twice every summer growing up. So I’m not experienced, but I have played.

    How did your group do today?

    Zeller: It was just good to be out here. And I had a great group; it was fun to be around them. We started off strong and we kind of fell off from there. But it was a really fun group to be with.

    After golfing with Zyrdunas all day, it seems like it might be tough for seven-footers. Is it?

    Zeller: I guess, but I don’t know. That’s what they say. The other part of it is, we can hit it a lot further than some people too. So there are advantages and disadvantages, like anything.

    How did you do, personally?

    Zeller: The first four holes, I lost three balls. But after, I did pretty well. My goal in the scramble was for my team to use three of my balls and they wound up using six – so that was pretty good. I thought it was a solid day.

    What’s your strong suit?

    Zeller: It changes. One hole, I drove well. One hole, I approached well. And one hole I putted well. It’s a little bit of everything and a lot of luck.

    How important is it for you guys – the current players – to get out on the course today?

    Zeller: I think it’s important. There are a lot of fans who don’t get the chance to be in contact with the players, so it’s great to connect with people in this way. And raising money for the Cavs Youth Fund is incredible. So, that’s what makes for a great day.

    Are you ready to get started in about a week?

    Zeller: Yeah, I think I got everything done. I’m really looking forward to it. This week, I’ll get ready, get settled in for, I guess you could say, the last week of summer and next week, we’ll hit the ground running.