Monday, April 7, 2014 | 11:57 p.m.
It wasn’t even close. The runaway victory over 18 rival teams was so decisive that there was no point in even checking the cards.
Former Chicago Bears All-Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher and former All-Star New York Yankees and Houston Astros pitcher Roger Clemens outright won the 13th annual Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational golf tournament at Shadow Creek hosted by Aria.
The event, here for the fourth consecutive year, raised more than $500,000 for charity after four days of festivities Thursday through Sunday. The winning duo took home the title with a score of 9-under 135, defeating the second-place team of NFL Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson and defending champion and MLB Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith. Brian and Roger each took home $20,000 for their charities.
Our contributing photographer Tom Donoghue had a first-hand look at the dangers of the little white ball while capturing actor Jesse Williams, who plays a doctor on “Grey’s Anatomy.” It was only the fourth time that Jesse had ever played golf, and his swing became a slice that struck Tom hard in the shoulder.
“Three inches higher, and it would have been my head!” said Tom. Fans yelled good-naturedly for “the doctor” to help the patient he’d struck. Tom nixed the medical help but got Jesse to autograph the errant ball for a souvenir.
Tom told me: “That ball came right at me after he hit it. I got the photo but couldn’t get out of the way in time it happened so fast.” Our contributing videographer Richard Corey posted his video of the 2014 MJCI on YouTube.
The other defending champion, Vince Coleman, was teamed with NBA Hall of Fame legend “Dr. J” Julius Erving for this year’s event, and they finished in seventh place with a two-day score of 1-over 145. Fan favorite, NBA legend and tournament host Michael Jordan teamed up with NFL Super Bowl champion and “sack master” Dwight Freeney for the second consecutive year and finished in a tie for third at 4-under 140. (Freeney, currently with the San Diego Chargers, won his Super Bowl ring with the Indianapolis Colts.)
Upon winning, Roger said, “Michael Jordan, Aria and Shadow Creek put on a great event every year, and that’s why you see the firepower we had on the course this week. Brian played like a champ, and I was fortunate to have him as my partner.”
Brian had his own praise: “Roger has an incredible drive, and we played really well together. As a sports fan myself, it was incredible to meet and play with (Ozzie) Smith and (Eric) Dickerson, who were two of my idols growing up.”
Since its inception in 2001, MJCI has raised nearly $7 million for charities, including this year’s beneficiaries Make-a-Wish Foundation, Keep Memory Alive and Opportunity Village, among others.
In addition to Michael, Brian and Roger, other celebrities who participated included Marcus Allen, Boyz II Men, Brian Baumgartner, Jerome Bettis, Dez Bryant, Brandi Chastain, Chris Chelios, Richard Dent, Larry Fitzgerald, Josh Freeman, Wayne Gretzky and Janet Jones-Gretzky, Ken Griffey Jr., Penny Hardaway, Ron Harper, Dan Jansen, Phil Hellmuth, Bruce Jenner, Andre Johnson, Nick Jonas, Toni Kukoc, Kenny Lofton, Greg Maddux, Christina Milian, Jonathan Ogden, Paul O’Neill, Jake Owen, Juan Pablo Galavis and Nikki Ferrell, Patrick Peterson, Mike Piazza, Ahmad Rashad, Aaron Rodgers, Ray Romano, Gretchen Rossi and Slade Smiley, Stuart Scott, John Smoltz, Alan Thicke, Mauricio Umansky, Russell Wilson, Winky Wright and Adrian Young.
2014 MJCI gala at Aria
2014 MJCI at Shadow Creek
Off the greens, the stars celebrated on the red carpet before their annual gala, which 8-year-old Make-a-Wish kid Lucas attended after his dream of meeting Michael was fulfilled. Chefs from Sage, Julian Serrano and Jean-Georges Steakhouse, all at Aria, served taste treats for Michael, who sat front-and-center with Ahmad and Stuart.
Michael thanked his guests, sponsors, volunteers and his celebrity friends for supporting the fundraiser. He encouraged fellow celebs to find “wish kid” Lucas at the gala — telling the crowd how much fun they had together at the course and explaining that Lucas, and the many other children whose lives have been touched throughout MJCI’s 13 years, are the inspiration for holding the events.
Magician, comedian, actor and TV personality Justin Willman, who hosts “Cupcake Wars,” pulled Dez and Jerome onstage for several magic tricks through his standup. Grammy Award-winning T-Pain brought the crowd to their feet as he launched an energetic set that included Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It,” Lil Wayne’s “Got Money,” Rick Ross’s “The Boss” and Flo Rida’s “Low.”
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and funk innovator George Clinton joined T-Pain onstage for a collaboration on “All the Above.” Then his Parliament-Funkadelic band brought on the funk for the crowd to boogie on the dance floor as the ballroom transformed into a popup nightclub.
GOSSIP ON THE GREEN
Michael, who was followed by an entourage of more than 25 golf carts, shot one 300-plus yard tee shot and a 40-foot chip in from the side of a par-3 green.
Teasing his teammates because he was so far ahead, Wayne Gretzky lounged on his side taking a “nap” at hole 18.
At the par-3 13th hole, a woman celebrating her bachelorette party in Las Vegas asked Ray Romano to sign her bride-to-be sash, and he obliged.
Although no official word yet, there’s buzz that Michael will take the event to Cao San Lucas, Mexico, next year, and then return for another run here.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.
Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.