Willie Stargell tournament tees off to support kidney disease research

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The Willie Stargell Celebrity Invitational is getting ready to tee off its annual golf tournament, and this year is introducing a change for the event.

“We are doing something new,” said Michelle Hackman, the event’s organizer. “We are allowing the public to come watch the tournament.”

The golf tournament will begin Sunday, Nov. 8 at 9 a.m. at the Country Club of Landfall. One hundred spectator tickets are available for $20 each.

Actor Richard Roundtree, famous for his performance in “Shaft;” Franco Harris, retired NFL Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks player; and Ozzy Smith,  former MLB St. Louis Cardinals player, will join more than 40 other celebrities for the 13th annual Willie Stargell Invitational at the Country Club of Landfall Nov. 6-8. Proceeds from the three-day event benefit the Willie Stargell Foundation, which supports kidney disease research and patient care.

The weekend includes a sponsor reception, autograph signing, and dinner and dance leading up to Sunday’s tournament.

The tournament’s namesake is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates for 21 years. He and his wife, Margaret Stargell, moved to Wilmington after they were married in 1993.

“Ironically, Willie was not a golfer,” Margaret Stargell said. “He didn’t enjoy the game because he was very competitive as an athlete, and he didn’t think he was good at it. He attended many celebrity golf tournaments and he would ride around on the golf carts.”

In 2002, the year after Stargell died of kidney disease, Margaret helped found the Willie Stargell Foundation.

“It was a combination of family and friends getting together and talking about what we could do to keep his legacy alive, not so much as what he did as a baseball player, but more about him as a person,” Stargell said. “We decided we would do a golf event in his honor to assist those living with kidney disease. Over the past 12 years, we’ve given close to $1 million away.”

Willie Stargell Foundation grant recipients include the Willie “Pops” Stargell Kidney Dialysis Center at New Hanover County Regional Medical Center, the University of North Carolina Kidney Transplant Program and Duke University Kidney Transplant Program.

Businesses and individuals, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Land Rover Cape Fear, sponsored the event by paying at least $1,000 to enter a four-person team in the tournament. A celebrity will join each team.

James McCabe, the physician who cared for Willie throughout his five-year battle with kidney disease at Southeastern Nephrology Associates, attends the tournament each year, and his practice sponsors it.

“Last year, we raised more than $100,000,” Hackman said. “We hope to increase that amount this year.”

For a full event schedule, visit www.williestargellfoundation.org/tournament.php

email pam@luminanews.com

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