A press release touting the presence of a celebrity in a pro-am is hardly unusual. Yet, when such an announcement arrived in the in-box today from the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am, it made me pause.
For the third time, actor, advocate and author Michael J. Fox will be playing in the Champions Tour event in Tampa, Fla., April 15-17. Fox, 49, has Parkinson's disease, a brain disorder that causes tremors and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination.
Fox's foundation to support research into the disease is one of the beneficiaries of the Outback tournament, and it makes sense that he would participate. The effort that it takes him, given his condition, is what is inspiring.
Last spring, while I was at the Outback reporting a story on the impact Fred Couples was having on the Champions Tour, I stood outside the scoring tent for a couple of hours, interviewing players after they finished the first round. The Outback draws well, and there was a large group of spectators lined up outside a fence waiting to get autographs.
When Fox, one of the most well-known actors of his generation, finished play, the number of autograph seekers grew by a lot. In between interviews, I would glance over and watch Fox interacting with his fans. He signed and posed for pictures, and signed some more -- for at least 45 minutes. When he finally walked into the clubhouse, he looked exhausted.
As Fox walked by me, I was struck by his fortitude. It also made me think of the golfers I've seen over the years -- a minority, to be sure -- who rushed through an autograph line or slipped out of the rear of a tent to avoid it after a bad round.
In the press release, Amy Hawk, the tournament director at the Outback, called Fox a hero. After what I saw last spring, I have to agree.
-- Bill Fields