HELEN — The clouds parted and the weather cleared Tuesday morning in Helen, just in time for 150-plus participants in the United Way of White County Celebrity Golf Tournament to squeeze in 18 holes for charity at Innsbruck Resort and Golf Club.
Former Atlanta Braves relief pitchers Adrian Devine and Rick Camp teamed with Gary Peters, Kevin Dawson and Dan Kelly to win the scramble format tournament, carding a 19-under 53.
In the seventh year of the annual fundraiser, the field has continued to expand to include more than 40 current and former professional athletes.
Bill Sutton, who founded the tournament along with former Braves infielder Darrell Chaney, guessed that this year’s event will bring in more than $20,000, once the contributions brought in by Tuesday night’s memorabilia auction are tallied.
"We’ve sold out this event every year," Sutton said. "This year we actually had a waiting list of 10 celebrities that are waiting to get in."
The event accounts for approximately 1/3 of the money raised annually by the United Way’s White County chapter. It has sustained success by making the event something the participants look forward to each year.
Some, like Flowery Branch resident and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Neikro, come back for the tournament year after year. Former Braves reliever Alejandro Pena and Billy Martin, who starred for Gainesville High School, Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Falcons, were back again this year as well.
Others, like former NFL wide receiver and return specialist Billy "White Shoes" Johnson and former Braves catcher Javy Lopez, took part in their first tournament this year.
The event kicked off Monday night with an informal "meet-and-greet" at Big Daddy’s in Helen, then wrapped up with a dinner and memorabilia auction Tuesday night after the tournament.
"There’s a very close-knit feeling around this event," said Jeff Yeates, who starred as a defensive lineman with the famed Atlanta Falcons’ "Gritz Blitz" defense in the early 1980s. "It feels like coming home to play golf for charity, and that’s a wonderful thing.
"We don’t come here every year just to play golf," added Yeates, a tournament participant since the event’s inception. "Sure we’re gonna play and have a good time, but we’re here to donate to a cause."
Yeates’ team finished at 14-under, one stroke off the second-place pace.
Dewitt Weaver (former professional golfer, member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame), Don Garath, Jeff Zwitter and Steven Littlefield came in at 15-under and took second after winning a three-hold playoff.
Jason White, Steve Urvan, Josh McClure and Dwayne Gaulding finished in third.
"The celebrity list here is amazing," said Urvan of gunbroker.com, one of the event’s sponsors. "And everybody has a good time here. In a lot of these events you blow in, play, and leave. I’ve never seen another event like this one, where the people are so committed, so involved."