Golf Classic brings out big names for charity

Astros Foundation's second-annual event expected to raise more than $300K

Golf Classic brings out big names for charity

RICHMOND, Texas -- Former Astros players Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens were the main attractions Monday afternoon at Shadow Hawk Golf Club at the second-annual Astros Foundation Golf Classic, which was expected to raise more than $300,000 for charity.

Local business leaders committed $10,000 per team to be paired with a former Astros player or other local celebrity for the tournament, which was delayed briefly by rain. A silent auction also brought in a substantial amount of money to benefit programs like the Urban Youth Academy and the Astros' Community Leaders project.

"We started it up last year and it went very well," Astros owner Jim Crane said. "We got some great response from the local community and have a lot of ex-players and supporters of the Astros. We're really raising a lot of money for the Foundation, which we'll give back to the city in some form or fashion."

Shawn Taylor, president of Zaxby's Houston LLC and an Astros ownership partner, said the event last year grossed $394,000, with the team clearing about 81 percent of that for charity. Taylor hopes for similar success this year.

The tournament was reshaped last year in an effort to raise more money than it has in the past. Taylor, who was raised in the projects on the south side of Chicago by a single mother, is a former restaurateur. He's now an advocate for inner-city children.

"It looks like we're going to do about the same or better than last year," he said.

Among the former Astros to participate were Craig Reynolds, Jimmy Wynn, Enos Cabell, Alan Ashby, Terry Puhl and John Hudek. Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan also played, along with Tom Lawless, the former big leaguer who managed the club in September.

"When Jim bought the club, he and the partners had the goal of having one of the best foundations in all of professional sports," Reid Ryan said. "Over the last couple of years, we've been focused on our Community Leaders program, which pairs local companies with city of Houston-owned fields to revitalize parts of underserved areas of our community."

Taylor said several of the top business leaders in Houston were eager to get on board with the event this year.

"I was flying back from D.C. about four weeks ago and in airplane shutdown mode, and while I was on the airplane, I started sending text messages to all the people I had relationships with in the Houston business community," he said. "When I landed, I turned the phone back on and within an hour I had sold half of the teams. It's a big ask.

"It's really exciting. It's showing a lot of support for what we're trying to do with the Urban Youth Academy. We're starting to build some momentum. I probably had about five or six people who supported the program last year who were unable to play who actually gave a fairly sizable donation as well. That was encouraging."

Clemens showed up with his wife, Debbie, who is a former women's club champion at Shadow Hawk, where they're both members.

"She's won the ladies club championship about four times, and [in the] men's, you won't find my name and she lets me know about it," Clemens joked.

As for Nolan Ryan, he said his golf game isn't very good because he's never taken the time to become proficient.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.