NFL Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis and actor/comedian Rob Riggle have played in dozens of golf fundraising events. But ask them to rank the very best of those and both respond with the same answer: the PXG College Showcase held at Scottsdale National Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Why so much love from “The Bus” for this event? “We get a chance to see the stars of tomorrow,” Bettis said. “That’s rare. I get a chance to see the stars of yesteryear elsewhere, so I’ve done that quite a bit. But to see these future stars at this stage, spend some time with them, and give them some words of wisdom, that’s what it’s all about.”
The second edition, featuring six top college golfers, airs Dec. 15 on Golf Channel. (The event was staged Nov. 16 and recorded for TV, with Morning Read among the media in attendance.)
Bettis and Riggle each captained a team, and they were joined this year by a half dozen elite college golfers: Gina Kim (Duke University), Brooke Matthews (University of Arkansas), RJ Manke (University of Washington); Logan McAllister (University of Oklahoma); Noah Goodwin (Southern Methodist University) and Eugenio Chacarra (Oklahoma State University).
Divided into two teams, the players and their celebrity captains played 18 holes over two courses at Scottsdale National using very different competition formats. The first nine holes were played as a scramble skins game on the back nine of The Mineshaft Course. Players and captains also got one shot to escape the infamous Mineshaft Bunker on the par-5 15th hole. The hazard extends 13 feet downward, and in a surprise that will likely play well on television, Bettis hit the best shot of the bunch. The second nine holes were contested over the back nine on The Other Course, with an alternate-shot format used.
A few tactical quirks were made available to each captain for one-time use on that final nine: they could call out the other captain, rather than a college player, to play one particular shot; they could change the other team’s playing lineup on the spot; or they could force one shot to be played over again. On the par-3 16th, Bettis called for Riggle to hit the tee shot instead of his college teammates, and Riggle pulled it off. Bettis then forced Riggle to hit the second time, and the comedian was up to the task.
Following the action on-site were two people associated with charities benefitting from the $1 million donation being made by Bob and Renee Parsons, owners of Scottsdale National, through their foundation.
General Joseph Dunford, former Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, represented the Semper Fi Fund, whose mission is to try and restore the independence and quality of life for veterans that have been impacted as a result of their service.
“This the most important program I am involved with,” Dunford said. “These are the veterans who have sacrificed the most. I don’t view this as charity. I view this as meeting our commitment to them. They wrote a blank check when they decided to serve in the U.S. military and did whatever we asked them to do. As a result of that service their independence and quality of life has been impacted, so I view us as working restore as much of that for them in the context of their injuries.”
Dr. Rachel Yehuda is the director of the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, where experts are investigating a novel paradigm for the treatment of trauma, PTSD and other psychiatric disorders.
“That is using a psychedelic drug, which alters one’s state of consciousness, in order to examine things that would usually be difficult to examine in a normal state of consciousness,” she said. “In order to truly heal you have to face what has happened. That is very hard to do when the memory of what happened provokes distress. Being in an altered state of consciousness that promotes empathy, self-compassion and trust for your therapist, reduces fear of the memory. It’s a very good state in which to do the hard work of examining the trauma and its effects.”
The level of golf played in the PXG College Showcase was befitting of its talented participants, according to golf instructor Travis Fulton, who serves as an on-course interviewer during the broadcast.
“These kids hit it a long way off the tee but they are accurate, too,” he said. “They are impressive around the green with their touch, and are able to control different trajectory and different spin. I knew the distance would be there, but their touch and imagination is impressive.”
For Bob Parsons, the PXG College Showcase once again brought together two constants in his life: golf and helping military veterans. “The Semper Fi Fund does so much good for people coming home where the government has some holes in what they provide, and they make a huge difference. I’ve been supporting them forever,” said Parsons, a U.S Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran and founder of PXG. “We started supporting Mount Sinai just this year and psychedelics are the cure for a lot of stuff that we have been wrestling with forever, with PTSD being top of the line. We’re glad to be a part of this event and we could not have two better causes.”
Both Bettis and Riggle found the questions asked by their college-age teammates between shots as impressive as the golf skills they displayed.
“One question was about work ethic and I was explaining that the part of success that no one recognizes is the sacrifice, and that’s usually the relationships that you hold the dearest to you,” Bettis said. “In the grind and quest to be the best, you miss Christmases, birthdays, and holidays because you’re working toward something. I said I would apologize in advance to my family and friends now.”
“I was so impressed,” Riggle said. “Coming down 18, Logan McAllister asked me, ‘What would you now tell your 21-year-old self?’ I had to think about that for a second. I told him, ‘You got an hour?’ But I gave him what I could in the moment and hopefully he’ll use it. But at 21 do you really listen to adults? No. And that’s fine. Just go figure it out.”