49er star’s thunderous charity success

An optimistic Bill Lindsteadt, Gilroy’s economic development

GILROY
– Not even Mother Nature’s most intense April

showers

could spoil all the excitement generated by Friday’s first
annual Jeff Garcia Golf Classic at Eagle Ridge Golf Course
– which grossed an estimated $100,000.
GILROY – Not even Mother Nature’s most intense April “showers” could spoil all the excitement generated by Friday’s first annual Jeff Garcia Golf Classic at Eagle Ridge Golf Course – which grossed an estimated $100,000. The money will benefit the Gilroy High and Gavilan College football programs as well as the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“It was more than I expected,” said Frank Filice, co-chair to the tournament committee. “It was really fantastic. I never dreamed we would raise that much money in the first year. It was phenomenal. The weather was against us – but, all in all, it was a great day. Everyone had a great time.”

It was a glorious time indeed, no matter the conditions, for the entire Gilroy community where Jeff Garcia – the 49ers’ two-time Pro Bowl star quarterback – was born and raised.

Play had to be suspended for a brief time because a thunderous storm as lightning pierced the skies sending golfers scurrying to the bar. Rain as well as hail covered the fairways and greens with white ice balls. Golfers did not seem to mind the short-lived storm – as some made snowballs and tossed the around in good fun. Once the dumping was over, the golfers returned to the course to finish out the fun-filled afternoon.

Almost two years in the making, the first Jeff Garcia Golf Classic was a big hit as local businessmen and community members joined forces to put on the fundraising event in grand fashion – South County style.

“We’ve talked about for a number of years of doing something down here. Gavilan College has its little tournament and the high school has one also,” said Bobby Garcia, Jeff’s father and committee co-chair. “We decided to take some time, make it first class, put together a format that people would look at and say, ‘I want to be part of this thing.’

“If we’re going to do it, let’s also raise some money,” added the longtime Gilroy resident. “Let’s go the first year and benefit Gavilan and Gilroy High School because Jeff was part of those programs and he wanted to give back to those programs. Then, I thought the other good thing was to bring in the Make-A-Wish Foundation.”

Garcia’s rise to 49er fame began just a driver and a three wood away at Gilroy High School. He then played at Gavilan Community College – where he was coached by his father, Bobby. Although forced to take the road less traveled by most NFL greats, Garcia transferred from the local community college to nearby San Jose State University. The determined Gilroy slinger then went on to win a Gray Cup with the Calgary Stampeders before being signed by the San Francisco 49ers.

There were Jeff Garcia jerseys and memorabilia galore auctioned off, adding to the local programs bounties, but the prize was a collection of signed helmets from each of the Gilroy-native’s career stops (the exact design the year he attended) that went for nearly $4,000.

“It’s very special (to have Jeff as an alum). It’s someone that our athletes now can look up to and know that it’s possible for them. That they can reach that same standard,” said Jack Daley, Gilroy High Athletic Director. “It’s so exciting that Jeff has that sense of pride in where he came from and loves the community of Gilroy, and is willing to give back.”

Daley, along with Gilroy High head football coach Darren Yafai and offensive coordinator Tim Pierleoni, were all volunteers at the tournament. Daley volunteered on the closest-to-the-pin competition on the 16th hole with Pierleoni on the other end and Yafai offering beverages on another hole.

Gavilan College head football coach John Lango, as well as his staff, also volunteered – working the football toss on the sixth hole. Lango said the money raised by the tournament would help the football program in many ways.

“One to make sure our kids are safe. The equipment has got to be top notch. If we need knee braces for the kids, that’s what we’ll do. Just safety equipment is part of what we’ll use the money for,” Lango said. “And the other thing will be for things that will help our players become better players. For example, we don’t have any shoots – which help our linemen stay lower… (We will also buy) some video equipment that will help us better show our kids what we’re doing and not doing right or wrong.”

Lango’s biggest recruitment tool is Jeff Garcia – who he believes is “a great philanthropist for the school.”

“He’s such a great guy,” said Lango of Garcia. “It’s a great recruiting tool and we use that a lot … Some people, they know who he is, but they don’t realize that he actually went to our school.”

Gavilan Athletic Director Ron Hannon hopes the funds will help “the football program develop into the program that we really want.”

“This is an incredible event, not just for the football program but for the entire college,” Hannon added. “This is the generosity of Jeff and the committee that put this thing together… It’s definitely going to help our student-athletes.”

Also benefiting from the Garcia Golf Classic will be the Make-a-Wish Foundation – which “grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.”

More than 150 golfers made for a who’s who in South County come Friday morning at check-in and also included celebrities such as Niner guru Bill Walsh – who was the first to recognize Garcia’s ability in the East-West Shrine Game; former 49er defensive back Keena Turner; current 49er defensive lineman Bryant Young; and former Minnesota Vikings’ star quarterback and Salinas High graduate Joe Kapp.

“As I see all these prosperous Gilroy people here, they know the value of education. That’s what this tournament is about. I’m just glad to be part of it,” said Kapp, who also went the Canadian Football route before coming to the NFL. “Jeff is the best quarterback in the National Football League … Jeff is going to win some Super Bowls here. I’m a Viking, so I can’t root for the 49ers except I guarantee you I root for Jeff Garcia.”

Everybody who huddled outside the Eagle Ridge Clubhouse on Friday were Jeff Garcia fans, supporters and admirers. So with the rain delaying the shotgun start, the masses mingled and enjoyed themselves. Then the rain stopped and everyone headed for their golf carts.

“Hopefully the sun will stay with us, but whether it stays or not, I think it’s just a great turnout. Obviously, a great event. Everybody’s excited about it – which is great. I think the excitement is definitely in the air and I think it’s a great cause,” Garcia said. “Being able to come back and help out the community, help out the local programs (is gratifying) and, hopefully, it will just continue to build over the upcoming years.”

Before walking over to the first tee box, Jeff Garcia said he was not much of a golfer – but he was up for the challenge like he always is on the football field.

“I don’t. I don’t (play often),” said Garcia with a smile on his face. “It’s a tough course, but it’s all right. I go out there and I’ll just hit away. I don’t get too disappointed with myself because I know I don’t put the time in. One of these days I’ll figure it out and, hopefully, I’ll get a good shot here or there.”

Play had to be suspended for a brief time because of some heavy rains – but once the dumping was over, the golfers returned to the course to finish out the fun-filled afternoon. Golf was only part of the all-day event as a special dinner banquet at Eagle Ridge along with auctions of Jeff Garcia sports memorabilia finished off the festivities.

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