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July 13th, 2004, 06:09 am
<blockquote><p align=justify>Four years ago, this was an excuse for Donnie Wallace and Brian Mitchell to get their friends to come to town for two days of golf and fun.

“It used to be something we just did,” Wallace said. “It was about the only time we got to see a lot of these guys.”

As with all things, the Brian Mitchell & Donnie Wallace Celebrity Golf Outing has evolved, and now it’s an important event not just for those two but for several charities in the Acadiana area.

Sunday’s pre-tournament party and Monday’s tournament at Le Triomphe, both supplemented by the generosity of sponsors, raised much-needed funds for the UL Lafayette Quarterback Club, Acadiana Outreach and Stuller Place.

“We called this ‘Giving Back,’ and that’s what this is all about now,” Wallace said Monday while his celebrity friends were still leading their groups around the renovated Le Triomphe course. “It’s really great to see what kind of support we have locally.”

This year’s two-day event was the largest to date, with 39 teams participating and a celebrity group that included Johnny Hector, Bo Lamar, Joe Ward, Keenan McCardell, Hollis Conway, Jake Delhomme, Tyrone Hughes, Eric Martin, Orlando Thomas, Kevin Faulk and Rickey Bustle.

<center><p><a href="http://www.theadvertiser.com/sports/html/B7E025E5-0FEA-48D8-88C8-7BE8F08ED15A.shtml">The rest of the story</a>

Dan McDonald
dmcdonald@lafayette.gannett.com <!--

One of the lead celebrities, Charles Barkley, was unable to attend due to the filming of a NIKE commercial. However, Barkley did link up by phone with the group that attended Sunday’s gathering.

“He really wanted to be here,” Wallace said, “and I think anyone who heard him realizes that.”

A lot of other friends were there, most having ties to the area, and to Mitchell that is one of the important things about the tournament.

“It doesn’t matter what they did ... football, basketball, whatever,” Mitchell said. “To the people here, they are celebrities. This area cares about its own. Other places you go, they expect all the celebrities to be Joe Montana. Here, you’re important to them, and that’s a great feeling to have.”

“It’s sort of a fine line,” Wallace said. “The main objective is the charities. It cost us to bring in some of the celebrities, because you can’t cost them money to come in. But you don’t want to spend a lot, because that’s less for the charities. You want to be efficient, and that’s where the sponsors are so important.”

Turbo-Chem served as the major sponsor for the event along with Schilling Distributing, Magnolia Marketing and Lafayette Safety Systems.

“They’ve helped us save the bottom line,” Wallace said.

The tournament started in 2000, and at that time either Mitchell or Wallace personally knew every person playing in the event. That’s pretty much still the case, and that’s just the way they want it.

That also feeds the never-ending appetite that Mitchell now has for the game. The multi-time All-Pro was bitten by the bug several years ago, and his passion for golf is nearly on a par with the passion he showed as a record-setting quarterback for the Ragin’ Cajuns and kick returner in the NFL.

In fact, he plays much more than Wallace, who is around the best golfers in the world on a daily basis in his position as director of operations coordinators for the PGA Tour.

“I pretty much play from March until November,” said Mitchell. “Donnie said he’s played eight rounds all year. I’ve played eight just this week.”

Mitchell has in fact played nine times since coming to Louisiana 10 days ago, and will likely play more before returning north and continuing the process of preseason preparation. He wants to make his services as the league’s all-time kick return leader available to an NFL team for one more season, and said he’s involved in discussions with Houston, Green Bay and San Francisco among other clubs.

“This is going to be my last year,” he said Monday. “I’m tired of getting hit that much.”

The only hits today came on the course.

“It makes you feel good how passionate a lot of these guys are,” Wallace said. “They’re all willing to help with what we’re trying to do.”
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