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Athletes scramble to take swing at cancer

Jackson, Barnes and friends gather at Woodcreek Golf Course
By: Jeffrey Weidel, Press Tribune Correspondent
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An aging, rotund oak tree at Woodcreek Golf Club provided a definite comfort zone early Saturday afternoon for Becky Tanihana and her son Jonathan. Shade from the 90-degree heat was one factor, another one was even more crucial to self-preservation – protection from an errant shot. “I was a little worried, seeing all you people between us and the green,” joked ex-Sacramento Kings star Chris Webber as he stepped out of his golf cart Saturday at the inaugural Athletes vs. Cancer Golf Invitational. “Good idea deciding to get behind the tree.” Webber was among the 30 celebrities and 160 total golfers who were playing the Roseville course before approximately 600 people that included adoring Kings fans, event volunteers like the Tanihanas, autograph seekers and cancer supporters. Hosted by Sacramento Kings guard Bobby Jackson and NBA veteran Matt Barnes to honor their mothers, who both died of cancer, the charity event definitely had a basketball flavor. Among the participants with Kings connections were Mitch Richmond, Doug Christie, Harold Pressley, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Henry Turner and rookies Jason Thompson and Donte Greene, who supported the effort but didn’t play. Also spraying golf shots and passing along goodwill on this sun-drenched day were Baron Davis, Trevor Ariza, Dan Majerle, Tyson Chandler, Greg Vaughn, Deon Taylor, Kevin Federline, Geo Carmazzi and more. “The amount of celebrities that came out to support the tournament is just overwhelming,” Jackson said. “Fighting cancer is something that’s always going to be close to me. I’m just happy we got all this tremendous support and help to put on this golf tournament and continue the fight against cancer.” Battling cancer was an underlying theme, while getting to exchange small talk, receive an autograph or get a picture taken with one of the celebrities was clearly the primary goal for many people. That was certainly the case for Joanne Wiedermann of Rocklin, who will now treasure a photo with Webber and her that was snapped just off the seventh green. “I’ve been a Kings fan since the early ‘90s and just love players like Chris and Mitch. I have so many fond memories of when they played here,” Wiedermann said. With a home just off the eighth green, Mike Allen was like a lot of his golf course neighbors, taking advantage of celebrities literally playing in his backyard. He wasn’t hosting a party like some, but made sure to have his camera ready when players like Webber came by. “I’m loving this. I’ve got a ringside seat,” Allen said. Arguably the best player in the Sacramento era, Webber was clearly the biggest attraction. He graciously greeted fans of all ages, posed for pictures, and signed countless autographs. He also showed some acumen for the game, which wasn’t the case of some celebrities, who were clearly beginners or very occasional players. “I’m out here having fun,” Webber said after hitting a long 4-iron into the green at No. 9 near the clubhouse, giving his scramble group a sizable eagle putt, which they couldn’t convert. “I never got nervous shooting free throws, but I’m nervous hitting a golf ball with all these people around watching. But this is for a great cause, that’s why I’m here, to remember Bobby and Matt’s moms. When Matt’s mom died that was the first time cancer ever really touched me.” “It hits home for me. I have a grandfather who died of cancer and my sister is fighting cancer right now,” said Davis, the former Golden State Warrior who flew in from Los Angeles on Saturday morning and took a return flight following the tournament. While celebrities like Webber lent their support, behind-the-scenes people like Diamond Oaks golf pro Scott Prenez (tournament director) and Woodcreek pro Rob Frederick were scurrying around the course all day to make sure the event proceeded smoothly. There were also many City of Roseville volunteers lending a hand as well, including Jamie Carlson, retired parks and recreation assistant Ken Bailey, and assistant city manager Mike Shellito. The efforts of so many has Jackson hopeful that this inaugural event will become a Roseville tradition. “This is the first year and we want to be back here next year and make it bigger and better,” he said. “The City of Roseville stepping up, people like Erika (Bjork) helping promote the event, and Scott (Prenez) and Mike (Blasé) of Diamond Oaks all doing so much. I’m very grateful for all the support. This is a terrific start, a tremendous first year.”