Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009 | 1:55 a.m.
Instead of hitting the red carpet, celebrities stepped onto the golf course today for the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Pro-Am competition.
The event was broken into morning and afternoon tee-offs with 36 groups participating, including professional golfers, amateurs and celebrities.
Timberlake kicked things off around 11:30 a.m. with professional golfer Anthony Kim and amateurs Sal Masekela and David Bomar. Crowds swarmed the course to get a look at Timberlake as he greeted his mother, Lynn, before teeing off.
Gina Cochran, visiting from Georgia, arrived at the course three hours before Timberlake was scheduled to show up. She said she missed last year’s event and didn’t want to miss the action this year.
“I enjoy the PGA and Justin,” Cochran said. “This is such a good cause. I would love to see more celebrities come out and support this.”
Wayne Lachut, board chairman for Shriners Hospitals for Children, said the event has been held for three years, and each year the turnout is better.
“The bigger the names, the better we are,” Lachut said. “We’re happy if we break even, but it would be nice to raise $5 million.”
Lachut said the Shriners Hospitals for Children spend $2 million a day and $28.60 a second to improve pediatric care for children. He said Timberlake was brought in last year to try and spread awareness among the younger generations. Alice Cooper and Kenny G will bring in the older crowds and Timberlake will bring in younger crowds, he said.
Timberlake’s former band mate Chris Kirkpatrick was also putting his golf skills to the test at the competition. He said he’s glad Timberlake got involved with the cause.
“It’s great they brought Justin in because he’s a young guy and will bring in new people,” Kirkpatrick said. “I love coming here and meeting people and getting out on the golf course to play golf and have fun.”
Comedian and actor George Lopez certainly had fun on the course. He joked with fans, kicked a clown and even made technical sergeant Jerard Waymer do push-ups.
“I try to compete in all the tournaments I can with the people I have posters of on my wall,” he said. “It’s tough to raise money because of the economy, but this raises the money.”
Accompanying Lopez in Group 20 was former boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya.
Tom Sailers, from San Diego, said he attended the event to watch De La Hoya play golf.
“I’ve heard Oscar is a very good amateur golf player,” Sailers said.
While watching Lopez and De La Hoya putt, Laurie Houck of Charlotte, N.C., said the Pro-Am is the best part of the event.
“What other sport can you get this close to the athletes?” she said.
Rock singer and songwriter Alice Cooper didn’t mind getting up close and personal this morning with fans. He signed autographs and posed for pictures while sporting a grin on his face.
Cooper said he wanted to participate in the event because he had three days off from his Theatre of Death Tour and wanted to help out.
“When you see these kids, you want to play every day for them,” Cooper said.
He said he’s been playing golf for 28 years, and it has helped him quit drinking.
“I quit drinking and started playing golf,” Cooper said. “I traded one bad habit for another one.”
Some of the other Pro-Am attendees were PGA professional Davis Love III, professional poker player Phil Hellmuth and “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” actor Alfonso Ribeiro.
Natalie Gulbis, of the LPGA and a former employee of Donald Trump on the TV show “Celebrity Apprentice,” said the special guest list of professional golfers and celebrities help increase knowledge about the event.
“Every single time it gets mentioned, it only does more to get the awareness out about Shriners Hospitals,” she said.