Labour of love for host Fuhr

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

He has a welcome mat in one hand and a putter in the other, and admits it's not easy balancing the roles of host and competitor.

He doesn't mind, though, because Grant Fuhr's celebrity golf tournament has become a 72-hole labour of love.

"It's a little hectic," said the Hall of Fame netminder, sparing a few minutes to talk while putting the finishing touches on the inaugural Grant Fuhr Celebrity Classic, which tees off this morning at Blackhawk. "But the field is set and we're ready to go."

Fuhr, who hopes to make Edmonton a regular stop on the U.S. based Celebrity Players Tour, knew going in that the first year would be an enormous challenge. Brainstorming on a napkin is one thing, bringing a course full of celebrity players to town and selling Edmonton golf fans on the idea was quite another.

"The idea was easy," said Fuhr, a regular on the tour. "The hardest part was getting people to buy into the idea. You have to sell people on it. We've done that."

'FABULOUS' FIRST YEAR

They've managed 50 pro-am teams (a celeb and three locals who buy their spots), which Fuhr says is "fabulous," for the first year.

"After that you have to figure out how to find enough celebrities. We've had a really good response that way."

While the field contains about 20 Celebrity Players Tour regulars, it's without most of the A-list stars who show up for the established events down south (Michael Jordan, Lawrence Taylor, Charles Barkley, Jim McMahon and the likes).

But Fuhr's stop is not without personality. Sprinter Donovan Bailey will be here on the weekend, joining a cast that features Bernie Nichols, Mickey Tettleton, Vince Coleman and Gizmo Williams.

Once a few of the Celebrity Players Tour regulars get a look at Edmonton's hospitality, Fuhr is certain they'll recruit an even bigger guest list for year two.

"You want to show them the city and show them that an event here is viable," he said. "But getting players the first year is tough because they want to see how it runs first.

"Once they're here they'll understand how good it is. Next year will be an easier sell - word of mouth is the most important thing you can get."

DOWN TO BUSINESS

The pro-am goes today and tomorrow, then it's down to the serious stuff on the weekend - with the celebs playing 36 holes for a $20,000 first-place cheque.

"All the guys we've brought in are pretty good players," said Fuhr. "Bernie Nichols is a pretty good player, he has a chance. I've heard Scotty Upshall is a pretty good player. Don Edwards and Greg Stefan are solid players. Darren Veitch had a great junior golf career in Saskatchewan. I've played with him a few times, I know he can play.

"Vince Coleman and Gorman Thomas are good, Shane Rawley is a really good player. I think out of 27 guys on the weekend, any one of 20 could win."

With organizational duties swallowing up so much of his time, Fuhr hasn't had much time to sharpen his game.

"My practice time has been a little limited," he said, adding it would be nice to win his own event. "You want to do well, but you also know that organizing is going to make it a little bit harder. I just want to be competitive."

Tickets are available McDonald's and various outlets all over Edmonton. An adult ticket ($40 for two days or $75 for a weekend pass) includes one free child's ticket and an Oilers print. Tee times are 7-9 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. today.


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