Retired 17-year Major League Baseball outfielder Reggie Sanders and retired nine-year National Football League wide receiver Andre Davis became aware of each other’s residence in Myrtle Beach through the man who washes their cars.
After being introduced, they soon became interested in each other’s charitable causes, and brainstormed ways to help each other help others.
The result is the 2LiveBeyond Celebrity Golf Tournament that will be held June 14 at the Grande Dunes Resort Course and affiliated events on June 13.
Former major league players expected to participate include Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman, Jose Cruz Jr., Kenny Lofton, Ken Griffey Sr. and Eddie Murray, along with NFL wide receiver Jacoby Jones and safety Bernard Pollard, who were members of the Baltimore Ravens’ 2012-2013 Super Bowl team.
Sanders and Davis enlisted the help of friend and fellow Strand resident Scott Pyle, who will serve as tournament director and owns Pyle Financial Services, a boutique financial planning firm that works with professional athletes, business owners and retirees.
“Once I figured out where his heart was, and Scott’s heart and my heart, then we just brought those hearts together to bring this together,” Sanders said.
Benefiting charities are The Reggie Sanders Foundation, which focuses on autistic and special needs children, Africa New Life Ministries, which assists needy children in Rwanda, and the Grand Strand Miracle Leagues. A local charity will be selected every year and the Miracle Leagues has been selected for 2014.
“One of the things we continue to try to do is make a difference in children’s lives,” Davis said. “When we’re able to do that you make a difference in the family’s life, and when you make a difference in the family’s life you make a difference in the community’s life, and that is really the way you have an opportunity to change the world.”
More than 30 athletes are expected to participate and be paired with paying foursomes. Former NFL players who have committed include wide receiver Ruvell Martin, quarterback Tyler Thigpen, linebackers Andra Davis and Don Davis, punter Matt Turk and kicker Olindo Mare. In addition, NFL assistant coach Larry Kirksey, NFL player agent Kennard Mcguire and Athletes in Action Pro Ministry Director Corwin Anthony are registered.
Other former MLB players who have committed include Steve Finley, Mike Sweeney, Kevin Young, Tony Womack, Marlon Anderson and Eddie Taubensee. The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association is supporting the event and will be responsible for about 15 additional players.
Former NFL receiver David Patten and running back Samkon Gado are non-golfing participants. “We have a full field [of celebrities],” Pyle said. “As of two weeks ago we had to start telling our celebrity players that we have enough.”
Playing spots are $1,500 per player or $5,000 per established foursome. As of Thursday morning, more than half of approximately 128 playing spots were available.
Pyle said he has received an “overwhelming” amount of corporate support on the Grand Strand. “We see this being not just the inaugural year and hoping for next year, we’ve already lined up local as well as national relationships for our tournament next year,” Pyle said. “This is a tournament we want to continue to host in Myrtle Beach.”
Organizers are using the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am as an example, and hope to have comparable success in the future.
“They’ve done such an excellent job. This was their 20th year and they’ve raised over $5 million and they have great relationships around the country,” Pyle said. “And because of Reggie, Andre and my relationships with professional athletes, we can bring in a group of that quality and be about a completely different [cause]. They have set the bar and that’s the quality we’re shooting for.”
Details regarding spectators are still being determined, though a limited number of general public spectators numbering 1,000 or less are expected to be allowed for the golf tournament.
Two celebrity activities will be open to the public. The celebrities will be playing a Miracle League game on June 13 with the special needs children, which will be followed by a luncheon appearance at PGA Tour Superstore, where customers will have a chance to compete in a long drive contest against hosts Sanders and Davis.
June 13 activities also include a pairings party at the House of Blues with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and live and silent auctions featuring sports memorabilia, much of which will be supplied by MLB alumni.
A concert featuring Texas-based Christian band Shane & Shane will close out June 13 activities, and approximately 1,200 tickets are for sale to the public at $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at the House of Blues or www.livenation.com.
Golf on June 14 will be preceded by a breakfast and followed by an awards banquet and barbeque.
PGA Tour Superstore is raffling off two spots to play in the tournament at $10 per entry. Anyone wishing to donate, participate or volunteer can visit www.2livebeyond.com.
Both Sanders and Davis had distinguished careers. Sanders won the 2001 World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks and is one of eight players in MLB history with 300 home runs and 300 stolen bases.
Davis played with Cleveland, New England, Buffalo and Houston and shares a pair of NFL records with two kick returns for touchdowns in one game and a 99-yard touchdown reception.
Sanders, a Florence native, has lived in Myrtle Beach for the past five years with his wife and four daughters, and Davis for the past 2 ½ years with his wife and three children.
Sanders is driven philanthropically by several trying experiences in his life. They include the death of a sister at a young age, finding his father at the bottom of a swimming pool, and having an autistic brother, a dyslexic daughter and a daughter who has auditory processing disorder.
The Sanders Foundation is granting up to 25 wishes a year and provides funding for autistic or other special needs children and their families through his “Dream Within You Campaign.”
“I said one day when I have an opportunity to help, I would do my best,” Sanders said. “I got that opportunity when I got called to the major leagues. I started my foundation in 1992 and we’ve been going strong ever since.”
Davis has seen first-hand the need for better care of children in parts of Africa. His brother-in-law and sister-in-law moved to Nigeria to begin a business, and doctors there discovered a mass at the base of the brain of their 5-year-old son in 2008. But Davis said the doctors couldn’t diagnose or treat his nephew properly. Then a member of the Houston Texans, Davis flew the family to Houston and arranged for the necessary surgeries at Texas Children’s Hospital for what turned out to be a cancerous tumor.
“This tournament is going to be a great time and we’re going to make a difference,” Davis said.
Pyle said Africa New Life Ministries cares for more than 5,500 children in Rwanda with food, clothing and education. Tournament proceeds will be applied toward a donor’s matching $360,000 gift for the purposes of building a health clinic named The Dream Center. Pyle said 91 cents from every dollar donated to the charity go directly to the betterment of children, and more than 150 Strand families sponsor children in Rwanda for $39 per month.
The primary charities will split 90 percent of proceeds and the Miracle Leagues will receive 10 percent.
“You’re helping children in the local market, you’re helping children around our nation and literally children on the other side of the planet,” Pyle said.
The Grand Strand Miracle Leagues provide individuals with special needs the opportunities to participate in sports and recreation activities in an environment that is adapted for them.
The organization has approximately 120 special needs individuals in its baseball program, has started a soccer program and plans to begin a golf program this summer. The Miracle Leagues baseball field is also utilized by special needs students in area schools.
“I think it’s going to be great for awareness for us, and I think it’s just going to be a wonderful experience for our kids,” said Tory Mackey, executive director of Grand Strand Miracle Leagues. “We’re going to celebrate these kids.”
Sanders met Mackey in February and both he and Davis were special guests on opening day of the Miracle League baseball season on March 22. The spring season runs through May 17, when the Myrtle Beach Pelicans participate in games, and the fall season begins in September.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.