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Mission Accomplished

Arnold Palmer (left) Gary Player (center) and Jack Nicklaus played in a scramble for the first time in their illustrious careers. It couldn't have happened at a better time or for a better reason.
Chris Condon

June 8, 2010

By Laury Livsey, PGA TOUR Staff

BRISTOL, Va.—Carolyn Wong, a fifth-grader at the Mountain Mission School, looked a little forlorn. She was clutching a pin flag from The Big 3 for Mountain Mission Kids golf tournament held Tuesday at Olde Farm Golf Club, and she had autographs from Gary Player and Arnold Palmer. One autograph was conspicuously absent, though. With a bit of a frown, she walked up to a tournament official, who asked what was wrong.

“I really wanted the Golden Bear’s autograph,” she explained. Wong may only be 10, but she already knew that Jack Nicklaus is the Golden Bear and that she didn’t have his signature.

At that moment, Nicklaus, 48 hours removed form hosting his own PGA TOUR event—the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio—emerged from the clubhouse, and Wong had found her man.

“Do you think he’ll sign my flag?” she asked.

You had to like her chances, especially since a few minutes earlier, on the 19th green at the 19-hole Olde Farm, Nicklaus took the microphone and had some complimentary things to say after learning this one-day tournament had raised $15,149,l83 for the Mountain Mission School, a non-profit institution with approximately 230 resident students ranging in age from 18 months to 20 years.

“My day was spectacular, absolutely spectacular,” Nicklaus said to the assembled crowd who watched him play a scramble event alongside Palmer and Player against three different amateurs on each hole. The Hall of Famers, who admitted afterward that they had never played a scramble together, won the friendly match, but, as Nicklaus said, “That wasn’t the point. Sure, I’m glad we won. But if we had lost all 19 holes, that would have been OK too.

“We go to a lot of places,” Nicklaus continued, “and we raise a lot of money. But I have never seen a group that has absolutely been as philanthropic as you,” he said, pointing to the crowd that purchased tickets to the event and bid in both the live and silent auctions that offered sports memorabilia.

As Wong clutched her flag, she saw Player and Palmer heading toward a van waiting to take them to a fund-raising dinner. A few minutes earlier, she had listened to Palmer standing on the 19th hole telling everybody how much fun he had had. “I had the opportunity, as we all did, to see some of the kids from the school out here today. They’re wonderful, and I think being here today has been a real pleasure for me,” Palmer added.

As the players got in the back seat of the van, Wong screwed up her courage, poked her head into the vehicle and said, “Mr. Palmer, can I give you a hug?” Palmer didn’t hesitate to put his arms out.

The 10-year-old then made the same request to Player, who, was seated behind Palmer. He gave the girl of Chinese-Colombian descent a big hug, and Wong walked away from the van fairly beaming.

The Big 3 for Mountain Mission Kids, sanctioned by the PGA TOUR, was organized by Grundy, Va., native Jim McGlothlin, founder of The Olde Farm and a long-time benefactor of the school to help students like Wong.

“To be able to do this is a testament to the hard work of a lot of dedicated people,” said McGlothlin at tournament’s end. “It is very rewarding to be able to make this donation to the Mountain Mission School. The work they do there is incredible and is making a huge difference in the lives of many kids.”

With the sun setting over Olde Farm and the crowds filing out, McGlothlin, the one who had the vision for this tournament more than a year ago and saw it become a reality Tuesday, spotted a friend in the distance and shot him a big smile. Funny thing, though. The smile wasn’t quite as big as Wong’s.


To make a donation through PGA TOUR Charities, Inc. to support Mountain Mission School, click here

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