Mariners go golfing to aid cystic fibrosis cause

Club hosts 30th annual tournament with GM and current, former players participating

Mariners go golfing to aid cystic fibrosis cause

SNOQUALMIE, Wash. -- Jack Zduriencik's wife and daughter are nurses, so he was aware of the discomfort that cystic fibrosis causes long before he began participating in the Mariners Care golf tournament to fight the chronic ailment.

Even so, the Mariners' general manager admits it's difficult for him to hear stories from those living with the life-threatening genetic disease that puts incredible strain on the respiratory and digestive system.

"There are many times I sit here, [and] it brings tears to my eyes to hear what some of their families and so many young people have gone through," Zduriencik said.

The 30th annual Mariners Care golf tournament to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was held Monday at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course in the Cascade Range foothills. And there weren't any tears early on. Just 18 holes of golf under cloudy skies before a charity dinner, with silent and live auctions.

"I have this starred on my calendar every year, as do many of our players," Zduriencik said, noting he had other family members who were nurses. "I think it's wonderful. It's a wonderful cause."

With no known cure, cystic fibrosis causes thick mucus to build in the lungs, leading to respiratory problems that include inflammation and/or infections. It causes mucus to form in the pancreas and other organs and makes it difficult to take in nutrients and keep on weight.

The Mariners are doing their part to fight the disease. Since 1986, the tournament has raised approximately $5.3 million for cystic fibrosis research. That number is expected to increase substantially with Monday's event.

"I think it's tremendous," Zduriencik said. "To have the players come out and the coaching staff and a lot of the front office people participate in something like this -- we're very, very blessed -- all of us, whether you're an athlete or whether you're in professional baseball in any way, shape or form." 

Participants included former Mariners Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Jeff Cirillo, Bucky Jacobsen and Erik Hanson, among others. A handful of current players attended, with Dustin Ackley, Charlie Furbush and Danny Farquhar serving as tournament hosts. The Mariners were off Monday before they resume a nine-game homestand Tuesday at Safeco Field against the San Diego Padres.

The consensus: Golfing for a good cause was the right way to spend the day off.

"To come out and enjoy the nature and be in the woods -- that's kind of my thing," said Ackley, in his fourth year at the event. "I like doing this." 

"Baseball becomes so small when you come out to one of these and see what's going on here," he added.

Thanks to advances in medicine and treatment, cystic fibrosis is no longer an abrupt death sentence. That wasn't always the case. In the 1950s, children with the disease often failed to live long enough to reach elementary school, according to cff.org. But per the latest CF Patient Foundation registry data, the average life expectancy is early 40s.

In some respects, the disease is still under the radar. About 30,000 people have it in the United States, and approximately 70,000 worldwide. So it doesn't always receive the same publicity as cancer or heart disease.  

When Ackley and Furbush played in the golf tournament for the first time, it was a learning experience for them, too.

"I didn't really know much about it before I came to this tournament," Furbush said. "I'd heard the term but didn't really know what it meant or how many people were affected by it. After being part of this and learning more and more about it, and how much advancement they've made in the technology to keep kids alive -- it has been so special to be part of something like that."

For the Mariners, Monday was a way to give back to the community.

"They support us tremendously through good times and bad," Zduriencik said. "We support the Seattle area and fighting a disease like this that's going to get cured."

To donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, go to fightcf.cff.org and make a contribution to the Great Strides fundraising campaign. Want to get involved? The organization has a 5K set for May 30 at Heritage Park in Olympia, Wash., with proceeds going to research for a cure.

Adam Lewis is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.