Hunter Mahan teams up with Mario Batali Foundation at 'Swing Session' event to benefit youth charities
September 14, 2012
By Lauren Teague, PGA TOUR Staff
JERSEY CITY, N.J. – For some, a perfect day begins in the kitchen and ends around a large crowded table with good food and even better friends. For others, their dream setting is a dynamic golf course on a picture-perfect day with the ultimate foursome.
On such a day (a bit of wind notwithstanding), celebrity chef Mario Batali combined the best of both at the third annual Mario Batali Foundation’s Swing Session charity golf outing at Liberty National Golf Club on September 10. With the Manhattan skyline serving as the backdrop, Batali set the table for a day of golf and food with a cast of celebrities – including former President Bill Clinton and PGA TOUR player Hunter Mahan – and foundation supporters. The chef traded in his trademark orange Crocs for orange-soled golf shoes and a bright orange golf bag to raise money for his namesake foundation.
“We try to empower children by reducing hunger, increasing their health through children's disease research and guarantee literacy by building libraries for them to borrow books,” described Batali.
The annual golf outing is one of only two fundraisers in the year for the Mario Batali Foundation, the other being the MBF Honors night that precedes it. “This is the main driver of everything we do,” Batali explained between golf shots. “We raise more than half a million dollars in two days, and then we give it away.”
When golf is the main course, served up with small bites from some of New York City’s top restaurants, one could excuse Batali’s friends for forgetting the impact of Mario Batali Foundation – except they don’t. Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, who has also been involved with the Zurich Classic in his hometown of New Orleans, noted the impact: “I think that chefs give a lot, but I think when you add it up, what golf does, particularly the PGA TOUR, they give a lot of money to kids. I'm happy just to be a part of it.”
The Swing Session pushed into the realm of serious golf (to go along with serious food) with the support of Mahan, whom Batali befriended with a simple letter to the pro. In exchange for coming to play, Batali offered Mahan a private dinner or support of his own charity work, which includes youth outreach. Mahan, a self-proclaimed food aficionado, was happy to help his new friend Batali, even if it meant flying in directly after the BMW Championship, his seventh event in eight weeks.
“I spent a couple hours with Mario and really saw what an amazing person he is and really how much he cares about helping people,” Mahan said. “When he asked me to do this, I couldn't say no. It's a great cause.”
The two fast friends share a common love for golf and food, each excelling individually but also striving to succeed in the other’s realm. “If you can focus and understand that simplicity is better than complicated, it works the same way in food as it does in golf,” Batali illustrates. “Keep it steady, keep it simple, don't try too hard but try just hard enough.”
Together on the 14th hole, overlooking the Hudson River, the TOUR pro and vibrant chef shared laughs and traded shots with each group. “I feel like I'm helping out, but I'm having more fun than anyone else,” Mahan exclaimed, with Lady Liberty over his shoulder and the smell of chicken cacciatore sandwiches wafting across the green.
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