After more than a year of COVID quarantines and social distancing, supporters of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tracy, including nearly two-dozen football celebrities, were ready to play a round of golf for a good cause.
Those sports icons included several San Francisco 49ers who had played with tournament host Keena Turner back in the 1980s when the team won four Super Bowl championships. They got together again on Monday at The Club at Ruby Hill in Pleasanton for the annual Keena Turner Golf Tournament.
Turner, a linebacker with the 49ers from 1980-1990 and now the team’s Vice President and Senior Advisor to the General Manager, is known locally as a big supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs, where his wife, Linda, is a longtime member of the club’s board of directors.
It was the 25th tournament, but the 26th anniversary of the event, considering that last year the event was canceled because of COVID restrictions. Turner said that even with the cancelation last year the support for the club was strong.
“Thankfully, a lot of our supporters who had already contributed to the tournament last year before we cancelled were willing to let us keep their funds and support and go forward, which really helped the club at a really desperate time,” he said.
It’s a sentiment that set the mood for Monday’s tournament, which attracted 149 golfers, including the sports celebrities.
“We get the best of both worlds,” said club CEO Kelly Wilson. “People are being extremely generous, realizing the importance of the club in our community. They’re supporting but so eager to get back in person.”
“When we got the word that things were going to open up and we were actually going to be able to have the tournament in person, our volunteers, our staff, were just elated. Once we started spreading the word everyone said, ‘I’m in! I’m in.! Count me in!’”
“Really I sensed it from the minute players started getting here,” Wilson added. “We haven’t seen people in two years, and this is like a family. This golf community is like our family, and seeing them after two years, it’s a celebration.”
The tournament is one of the big fundraisers of the year for the club. Wilson figured the event would bring in about $350,000, contributing to the club’s $2.2 million annual budget.
It’s also an annual reunion for the 49ers players from the 1980s. Some of them, including Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Eric Wright, were on all four Super Bowl championship teams with Turner. Jerry Rice, Bubba Paris, Charles Haley, Guy McIntyre, Jesse Sapolu and John Taylor, also were part of the 49ers’ string of championships, and are regulars at the benefit golf tournament.
Steve Bono, who was quarterback for the 49ers from 1989 to 1993, another regular at the golf tournament, won the putting contest at the start of Monday’s event, hitting his ball to within two feet, 11 inches of the hole.
“It’s been great to be able to do this,” Bono said. “Obviously Keena and Linda have raised a lot of money for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tracy and I’m happy to do my part and contribute where and how I can.”
Bono also said he enjoys the reunion with his teammates.
“It’s been a while. As we all know, with COVID I haven’t seen many of them,” he said. “It’s great to see all of them here today, especially after what the world has been through in a pandemic.”
Turner said he too values the chance to see his former teammates gather for a good cause every year.
“The coolest moment, aside from being out on the course together with our supporters and some of my teammates, is the time before: the celebrity putting contest and seeing the guys mingle and catching up, talking and revisiting some of the memories and old times,” he said. “Some of our alumni get to meet the new players, the younger players, and talk about those experiences together.”
That’s also when the club’s local supporters get to meet and socialize with Turner’s former teammates. Roland Ng donated a bottle of whisky as the prize for the putting contest as a way to show his appreciation for all that the club has done for him and his family ever since the club opened on Lowell Avenue.
“My younger brother, he was playing basketball in the gym before the gym had walls,” Ng said. “This was 1985, 1986, somewhere around there, so we were among the first kids to be involved with the Boys and Girls Club. We’ve stuck with the club ever since.”
“I played in the basketball camps, then I coached basketball, then I went off to school and then came back to be a member of the board, then I came to help with the golf tournament. Now I do volunteer work,” he said. He added that his siblings – Ramford, Rita, Ruby and Ryan – also grew up with the club.
“My sisters and brothers are all involved in the same way.”
Wilson said that the support makes a difference as the club transitions from a virtual COVID format to its traditional style.
“We’ve continued from the virtual program that we did and the virtual summer camps last summer, and then the in-person that we were able to start in September helping kids with their distance learning,” she said. The club reopened its seven sites when schools got back to in-person instruction, and now is moving into its summer programs.
“We’re still at limited capacity. We’re at 350 kids, versus 550, but the staff and the kids and the families are just so happy to be back now, and we have a waiting list. The need is there.”