116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - It was a virtual who's who of local and nationally prominent sports figures.
The list included a Super Bowl champ, a World Series winner, PGA Tour major winners, athletes who enjoyed long careers in the NFL and NBA, some former University of Iowa athletes and a college basketball phenom who offered his support by riding in a cart on a hot, muggy day.
They unified efforts to support the inaugural Zach Johnson Foundation Classic at Elmcrest Country Club on Monday, entertaining a crowd of about 3,000 spectators, signing autographs and sharing words during a fun and friendly round of golf. Funds raised by the event benefit the “Kids on Course” pilot program designed by Johnson's foundation along with United Way of East Central Iowa and the Cedar Rapids Community School District.
“I had a great time,” Johnson said after his finish on the 18th green. “I think the amateurs had a great time. I think everybody else is having a great time.”
Fun was the order of the day as fans of all ages came out to watch an event unlike any other in the Metro.
Notable names supporting the cause on the course included former NFL quarterback and fellow Cedar Rapids Regis graduate Kurt Warner, former Hawkeyes Tim Dwight and Ryan Bowen, who had long tenures in the NFL and NBA, respectively, former major league pitcher Mike Boddicker and five of the world's top 100 pro golfers - Johnson, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Jonathan Byrd and Rickie Fowler. Former Ames prep and North Carolina basketball star Harrison Barnes didn't play in the event but still rode around the course with one of the groups, showing his support.
“I'm taking pride in it and I hope Iowa and Cedar Rapids does too,” Johnson said.
The success has already generated interest in next year's second installment, set for July 30, 2012. Warner, who immediately worked the 2011 event into his schedule, plans to be involved in the future.
“I want to continue to support what these guys do,” Warner said. “I think this will be a long-running thing. (You can) see the support and what they are trying to do here in the community. It's easy to come back and support good people.”
Johnson's influence was apparent by the wide array of celebrities he drew to the event. The characteristics he exhibits and his genuine nature have a resounding effect with those he meets.
“It says Zach Johnson, Iowa, his values, what he represents and how he interacts with other people,” former Iowa and Drake men's basketball coach Tom Davis said.
Love, who has 20 PGA wins and has been a member of six Ryder Cup teams, was impressed by the turnout.
“I definitely want to come back,” said Love, noting that he is happy to repay Johnson for his work with Love's fundraising endeavors. “It's great support for a first-time event.”
Taylor Leon, an LPGA Tour player who shares a sponsor with Johnson, has grown to know him the last four years. She is also returning the support Johnson has shown her.
“Hopefully I'll be invited back,” the University of Georgia two-time All-American golfer said. “I had a great time. It's a great cause so I'm glad to support it.”
Love said it was exciting playing Elmcrest for the first time in front of Johnson's friends.
“It means the community is coming together to support Zach's new foundation,” Love said. “They know he's going to do a lot of good and give back to a community that has supported him for a long time.”
Johnson extracted a small cheer from the crowd that gathered around the 18th green when he placed the ball three-and-a-half feet beyond the pin, which led to a drained birdie putt. He was happy to oblige the crowd that was there to support the cause.
“That was fun,” Johnson said with a laugh. “I had to do something right.”
Johnson wasn't about to pat himself on the back and doled out praise in his regularly humble manner, crediting a number of the organizers and board members of the event, including his wife, Kim, and Elmcrest golf pro Larry Gladson.
“It means a lot,” Johnson said. “It starts and ends with the people. I have to give thanks to my board for putting in the infrastructure and energy because that's what it's all about.”