Big venue hosts McCovey Golf Classic

Big venue hosts McCovey Golf Classic

SAN FRANCISCO -- Golfers at this year's Willie McCovey Golf Classic had to contend with dozens of workers erecting scaffolding and tents and even pouring cement along the course.

And they didn't mind one bit.

That's because Thursday's event took place at Harding Park Golf Course, which in just over a month's time will play host to the very best professional golfers in the world during the 2009 Presidents Cup. The course also hosted the WGC-American Express Championship in 2005.

"They've already had a big tournament out here a few years ago, and now they're going to have the Presidents Cup," said McCovey, who merged his golf invitational with that of the Giants Community Fund last year. "Golfers like to play courses like that. They know Tiger [Woods] and Phil [Mickelson] and all those guys are going to be playing on it in another month or so, so I think they're having a great time."

The golf classic's proceeds benefit the Community Fund's flagship program, Junior Giants baseball, which provides 15,000 children the opportunity to play free, non-competitive baseball that emphasizes character development in 80 leagues across California and into Oregon and Nevada.

"The Giants Community Fund, which contributes to the Junior Giants, that's close and dear to my heart, because I grew up in an area where I didn't have good fields to play on," said McCovey, who also lent his name to the Giants' recent inaugural "Stretch Drive," which raised another $165,000 for Junior Giants. "My first glove was a glove that I made myself, and with the Community Fund, they're able to donate gloves to these kids, so they get to play with the real gloves, like the Major Leaguers play with. That means a lot to me."

About two dozen Giants alumni and other sports celebrities, including baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan and basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell, joined McCovey at the event. Community Fund executive director Sue Petersen estimated the day's take at around $80,000, an impressive total especially in the current economic climate.

"We're always glad when Giants alums and other celebrities show up not only for the Community Fund, but also out of respect and tribute to Mr. McCovey," said Petersen. "His presence in connection to this tournament is a huge boost to the Giants Community Fund."

Harding Park, located less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean, is known for having frequently inhospitable weather, but the arrival of a warm front made for nearly perfect conditions that enhanced an already successful event.

"It was a great day," said former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett, who has played Harding Park before. "The weather was fantastic for this time of year. I was just up here yesterday and it was foggy and miserable and cold, and today was a spectacular day."

Plunkett joked that he'd left a lot of golf balls with his name on them around the course for the pros to find in early October when the Presidents Cup is staged. He said nobody minded the buzz of activity as workers noisily put together massive bleachers and hospitality tents all along the course.

Indeed, the Presidents Cup trophy greeted golfers at the check-in table, and golf carts and flagsticks were already adorned with the event's logo. Former Giants infielder and current special assistant J.T. Snow, an avid golfer, eagerly explained to his foursome how the course will be reconfigured for the Presidents Cup, which pits the top non-European international players against the United States' best in match play.

But in addition to the chance to get to play on a course that will soon be in the international spotlight as only the second U.S. city to host the Cup, everyone in attendance enjoyed the opportunity to help so many from underprivileged areas.

"Junior Giants is helping a lot of kids," said Plunkett. "That's what all these communities need, a little help from people who can have the wherewithal to go out there and do things for them. It's a good deal all the way around."

Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.