Sheckler, friends tee off for charity
RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. -- Mike Smith woke up Tuesday morning and told his friends he was going to win $10,000 in a couple of hours. "I said, 'I'm only going to make two puts today,'" Smith says. "But they're going to be the two that count."
Smith had flown into Los Angeles from his home in Lincoln, Neb., to play in the Fifth Annual Ryan Sheckler Celebrity Golf Tournament at Trump National Golf Club, the first tournament he'd ever been invited to play in, and he woke up feeling confident. "He'd only played golf one time before today," says Sheckler, who invited Smith to play in his tournament after visiting him in Lincoln in March to lend his support, and his name, to Skate for Change, an organization Smith founded last summer to encourage skateboarders to "give back to the low-income and homeless in our community."
When Smith heard about the $10,000 putting contest preceding the afternoon scramble, he knew that money could go a long way toward feeding the homeless of Lincoln.
"Those were the first putts I've ever made in my life," says Smith of the 20- and 60-footers he sunk to win the cash. In the five-year history of the tournament, no one has won the morning putting contest. But there was no doubt in Smith's mind when he lined up to take his one and only attempt that his ball was going to fall.
"I kept saying this morning, 'I'm making that putt for my kids,'" he says. "When I lined up to take my shot, I said out loud, 'This is for all those kids back home.'" And then he drained a right-to-left, down-sloping 60-foot putt and was swallowed by a sea of fluorescent-clad golfers, including Sheckler and PGA pro Rickie Fowler. "That's just incredible," says Gretchen Sheckler, Ryan's mom and organizer of the event. "No one's ever made that putt. And he called it!"
Once the excitement calmed down, the golf foursomes -- which included Fowler, Oakland Raiders quarterback Matt Leinart, motocross legend Jeremy McGrath, Red Bull athletes Ian Walsh, Pat Moore and Mark McMorris and celebrities Wilmer Valderrama, Brody Jenner and Danny Masterson -- lined up for the 11:30 a.m. shotgun start.
Snowboarder Eero Niemela won the $25,000 hole-in-one jackpot later in the day, making this year's tourney the luckiest in Trump National Golf Club history. Rancho Palos Verdes local Jason Ditto won the $5,000 helicopter ball drop and pledged to put the money toward building a skatepark in his hometown.
Overall, the tournament raised $150,000 for the Sheckler Foundation's Be The Change program and to date, the foundation has raised $820,000 for charity. "I get invited to play in a lot of tournaments, but it's nice to be out here today with so many friends from the action sports world," Fowler says. "It's going to be a fun day."
As the golfers were making their way out onto the course, Sheckler grabbed the microphone, thanked his sponsors and everyone who participated in the event and then made one final announcement. "I was so impressed with that putt." Sheckler said. "That the Sheckler Foundation is going to match it. So that's $20,000 for Skate for Change." Looks like Smith was wrong, after all. He thought he was only going to win 10 grand.