After the golfers had gathered in their carts, one of the golf course staff Joe Mendoza made a few announcements and then turned the mike over to Don's pal Tony Rubino who was the tournament organizer.
Tony talked about the tournament and read a letter of encouragement - a pre-game pep talk as it were, to the golfers from Coach Pete Carroll to play well, and also let them know of the affection for Don that he and the team share as well as the admiration they have for Don's spirit as he fights this cursed disease. Tony had the letter in a frame for safe keeping and presented it to Don as well as a green golf shirt, in the tradition of the Augusta Masters tournament, with "Don Clausen Masters Tournament" imprinted on the chest. I believe I detected a tear or two from Don as well as some of the attendees.
Also in the tradition of the Augusta Master's, the tournament was kicked off, with a ceremonial tee shot by a gentleman affectionately known as "Uncle Al". Apparently he is the man that introduced golf to Don. After he knocked that fluorescent yellow bad boy downtown, the games began.
At this point, Don, Sally - his wife, his sisters-in-law from Arizona Norma Jean and Northern Cal Carol, and a couple of close family friends Betty Rubino, Sherry Frantz and I went down to an area between the 18th green and the 10th tee box. The Maderas golf course staff had set up tables, chairs and umbrellas so that Don could greet the players as they passed by and they "had to" wear USC hats to take a picture with Don. Ray Weber (SDTroy) joined us after he got off of work and brought the San Diego Trojan Club banners which we hung as well as some other USC paraphernalia.
After each foursome had their photo op, I would push Don up the hill (maybe a sand wedge away) to the tee box so he could watch his pals tee off and maybe a little trash talk. After the group completed their tee shots, I would push Don back down to the tables (praying to the Lord Jesus himself, I wouldn't slip and let the guest of honor go rolling down the hill into a stream) so he could take photos with the next group and this routine continued till all 60 golfers passed by. Pretty good workout for me, but I didn't feel it a bit as the look on Don's face as he shot the breeze with his buddies and watched them tee off was inspirational.
The tournament ended a little late as we thought maybe ex-Trojan players from the 50's Tony Ortega and Ed Rogers' group got lost out there. We all met at the club house for hors d'oeuvres and drinks, as well as door prizes and of course the trophy presentation. We were also treated to a rendition of "Danny Boy", one of Don's favorites, by Domer Frank O'Dwyer. Wouldn't you just know it that in the group that won the inaugural Don Clausen golf tournament was one of Don's Domer buddies? Frank O'Dwyer and his long time golfing and football traveling friend, Steve Frantz.
Ray had to leave early so he had me read a note of appreciation to Don for all of his service to USC and the SD Trojan club. I also read a separate note of appreciation to Tony Rubino for organizing the golf tournament and making it all happen as well as present a SDTC T-shirt to him.
That pretty much concluded the festivities for the evening save for Don's invitation to everyone to come back to his house for desert and coffee. It was a fun and rewarding day for all and I am telling you that Don is a wealthy man to have friends like these. You cannot buy the moments that I witnessed that picture perfect spring day in San Diego to celebrate the life and friendship of a fantastic Trojan brother.
It is my dream to that Don will witness all of the little boxes on the trophy filled in and that maybe one day my name will be in one of them as well. Until then, I will be pushing Don up that hill and praying to God that I do not let him roll down into the stream on the way back down. Fight on Don!!