Great One great host

JEFFERSON HAGEN -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

The pandemonium was beginning to build after lunch at Valley Ridge yesterday. The Great One was running late after arriving on a flight from Los Angeles but volunteers assured fans he was on the way.

While Wayne Gretzky\'s group played one hole without him, fans began to jockey for position around the 10th tee box, where it was expected the retired NHL legend would arrive any moment.

Canada\'s rowing queen, Silken Laumann, was teaching some of the Ronald McDonald\'s Children\'s Charities kids to putt on the 10th tee as fans waited with bated breath.

They didn\'t have too long to wait.

Gretzky arrived at the Celebrity Pro-Am \'fashionably late\' but, in true fashion, the Great One greeted the RMCC kids with open arms, signing autographs and posing for photographs.

It turned out he would do a lot of that throughout the afternoon as hundreds of fans relentlessly followed the Gretzky fivesome, which included lucky golfers Serge Babin, Troy Matheny, Bill Johnson and Gavin Stafford.

After one hole early in the round a group of young fans yelled out: \"Mr. Gretzky, please!\"

Gretzky promptly tossed his golf ball to the kids, giving them a souvenir of a lifetime.

\"It\'s a fun day,\" Gretzky said in between holes. \"We\'re really enjoying ourselves today.

\"Everybody\'s having a good time, everybody\'s taking a lot shots and it\'s very enjoyable.\"

When interviewed by the Sun prior to the event, Gretzky downplayed his talents on the golf course. But it was clear from the first shot he took, the Great One has very little trouble with his game.

\"I\'m up, I\'ve got to hit now?\" Gretzky joked after satisfying media requests on his first hole of the afternoon.

With no warmup and hundreds of fans waiting on his every move, Gretzky stroked a drive straight down the middle to the 150-yard marker on No. 10. It was actually No. 1 at Valley Ridge but the nines have been reversed for the event.

\"I\'m kind of used to playing in these things but when push comes to shove, Mike (Weir) and Ian (Leggatt) are on a whole different level the way they play golf,\" Gretzky said.

\"But I love to play. It\'s a great game, it\'s very enjoyable and I\'m having fun.\"

Gretzky will tee it up this morning at 8 a.m. with Leggatt in a best ball match against Weir and Jarome Iginla.

The pandemonium that followed him yesterday is just a small preview of what it\'s expected to be like this morning. The crowd should swell as all four Canadian sport superstars are in the same group.

Gretzky likes the course setup for today.

\"Obviously, it\'s in Mike\'s favour,\" he said. \"He\'s pretty good. Ian will definitely battle Mike and Jarome\'s handling himself really good.

\"So I\'m the enemy again. Some things don\'t change around here but we\'ll have a good time,\" he quipped with obvious reference to the 1980s and the many Battles of Alberta on the ice, where he drove Flames fans nuts with his talents.

Yesterday\'s Celebrity Pro-Am also featured Gretzky\'s father Walter and brother Glen.

Walter was enjoying himself as well. On the eighth hole (actually the 17th), which is an awe-inspiring par-3, dropping 100 ft. from tee to green, he stepped up to the tee and quipped, \"This is ridiculous.

\"These guys are so good it\'s embarrassing,\" he added with a wink after his tee shot came up short. \"I\'m just a hacker.\"

Still, it means a lot for him to be at the event, which is named after his son.

\"First of all, I wasn\'t supposed to alive in 1991 because of my aneurysm, so to be here ... it\'s a wonderful feeling,\" he said.

The winning team with the low net yesterday was A.J. Eathorne, Mayor Dave Bronconnier, Alan Hallman, Murray Smith, and Bob Nicolay.

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SCHEDULE

Schedule for the Ronald McDonald Children\'s Charities Wayne Gretzky and Friends Invitational at Valley Ridge Golf and Conference Centre:

* TODAY

7 a.m. -- Gates open to the public.

8 a.m. -- Main event. Wayne Gretzky & Ian Leggatt vs. Jarome Iginla & Mike Weir.

2:30 p.m. -- HSBC Shootout, Flames vs. Oilers, featuring Lanny McDonald, Jim Peplinski, Robyn Regehr, Craig Simpson, Ryan Smyth and Jason Smith. More players to be announced.

7:30 p.m. -- Ronald McDonald Children\'s Charities Wayne Gretzky & Friends Celebrity Dinner and Auction at the Roundup Centre.

* TOMORROW

Celebrity-Am.

9 a.m. -- Gates open to the public.

10 a.m. -- RMCC Invitational.

* Tickets for Celebrity-Ams $9.99 at McDonalds. Three-day passes are $99 at Ticketmaster. Tickets for a table of eight at Monday\'s Celebrity Dinner are


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