Coaches vs. Cancer Makes a Splash

The golf tournament continues to grow in its ninth year at Penn State. This time around host Ed DeChellis could speak of his own battle with the disease.

Having raised more than half a million dollars in its first eight years, it's fair to say the Penn State Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Tournament is making a splash in the community.

At PSU's Blue and White Courses Friday, the ninth-annual event made a literal splash, too. Dozens and dozen of splashes, to be exact, as a record turnout of 55 five-somes braved intermittent rain and biting wind to slog their way through 18 holes, all in the name of the fight against cancer.

Umbrellas, raingear and towels were the order of the day. There were plenty of smiles, too, which was not all that surprising considering the laid-back nature of the “competition” and the seriousness of the cause.

“Too bad the weather is a little crappy, but this is a great cause,” said Brad Scioli, who recently retired from the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. “I have a little brother who had cancer for 10 years. He battled it, fought it and overcame it, and it's in remission now for a while.

“So any time you can come out for a good cause, it is definitely worth it.”

Penn State basketball coach Ed DeChellis knows all about that firsthand. Though a well-organized committee handles the nuts and bolts of the tournament, DeChellis is the public face of the event. And in the past year, he came face to face with cancer. Last August, he had surgery to remove a malignant tumor on his bladder.

He is fine now, other than having to undergo tests every six months to see if the cancer has returned.

“My father passed away from cancer, and I had my bout in August,” he explained. “There were no warning signs or anything. I just woke up one day and had a problem. It has no prejudice. It has no boundaries. You always think it's gonna be the other guy. Well, I was the other guy.”

Former Nittany Lion basketball player Glenn Sekunda is a regular at CVC. Still enjoying a long professional career in Italy, he makes his off-season home in State College. Even so, he rarely gets to see his former teammates, which also makes this weekend so special every year.

“No. 1, it's a great cause,” Sekunda said. “Every one of us here, cancer has touched our lives. … We also get to come back, and it's kind of like a mini-reunion. You get a chance to see a lot of guys you don't see during the year.”

But former players like Sekunda, current Milwaukee Buck Calvin Booth and Danny Earl (who is contemplating retirement following a long career overseas) are only part of the mix. There is a strong level of corporate support.

Coaches of Penn State's other varsity sports participate. And hoop coaches from other schools get in on the action. Wake Forest's Skip Prosser — unwisely outfitted in shorts on the blustery day — rode around in a cart with his old pal DeChellis, glad-handing the different groups.

“The main thing is the cause: Coaches vs. Cancer,” said Mark Schmidt, a former PSU assistant coach (1992-93) and the current head man at Robert Morris. “What we're doing is just a small part of what should be done for this. For the coaches, whatever we can do to put a little dent in it, we do it.”

Fortunately, the success of this tournament is not tied to the participants' collective skill level. There were more hooks in this thing than you would find in a flyfishing shop, more shanks than in a slaughterhouse, more dribbles than in a winter night at the Bryce Jordan Center. Everyone blamed it on the rain, an excuse as bogus and comical as a Milli Vanilli tune.

One five-some of men paid a $20 fee to move up to the women's tee on a particular hole, and four of them promptly drilled balls into the woods. They jokingly asked for their money back. And didn't get it. It was the story of the day. Though the overall play was a bit suspect, the generosity was genuine.

Speaking of generosity, down through the years the majority of cash raised in this tournament has stayed within the region. In a speech during a CVC reception on campus Thursday night, DeChellis said last year some of it was used to help Nittany Lion softball player Kari Lucas' family travel with her as she underwent cancer treatment (she is now in remission) while other funds went to make mortgage payments for a local single mom who was battling breast cancer.

“Do I think the money we raise is gonna find a cure?” DeChellis said. “Probably not. But it can help, and that's what we're about, trying to help people.”


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