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Celebrities hit the Ridges to benefit local children’s hospital

U.S. Open winner Corey Pavin and former Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl joined other local and national sports celebrities on Monday at the Blackthorn Club at the Ridges for the 2011 Niswonger Children’s Hospital Golf Classic.
Funds raised from the benefit will be used to purchase new ventilators for the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital.
The event jumped off to a successful start according to hospital namesake and local philanthropist Scott Niswonger.
“We had a great auction last night and set a record that will be hard to overcome next year,” Niswonger said. “Over $170,000 was raised at the auction.”
Pavin, winner of the 1995 U.S. Open and last year’s Ryder Cup Captain, returned to the event for the second straight year.
“We are all here for the children and that’s what it is all about today,” Pavin said. “The whole community here is involved and that’s great to see. There is not a greater cause than helping children.”
Pavin said he has visited many children’s hospitals across the country and seeing the hope in their faces is really the best thing, aside from the medical care that can be given to them.
“You save one kid and it feels like the weight of the world is off of you,” he said. “I am proud to be part of this and help out.”
Pearl, a popular personality among Vol fans, was let go in March after an unprecedented six straight NCAA tournament appearances, also returned to the event he described as being close to his heart.
“This is a tremendous event. It started out as a local event and Scott [Niswonger] has turned it into a national event by getting guys like Corey Pavin,” Pearl said. “For me personally, it is one thing to ask the basketball coach at Tennessee to come down. It is another thing to ask the former coach and a friend now to come back.”
An orange-clad Pearl acknowledged that losing his job at the university was very difficult, but said he will continue to remain a big Volunteer fan. “People ask all the time why I still have my orange on,” Pearl said. “But I love the Vols, and I know the way we ended wasn’t the way we envisioned it.
“We were sorry to put our fans through some of that pain this year, but I think the good outweighs the bad and I’ll still be a Vol for life.”
Pearl said he sees the golf tournament as an incredible opportunity to help those who need it most.
“If you want to know how important this is, just close your eyes and pretend the Niswonger Children’s Hospital doesn’t exist,” he said. “Where are all those children and families going to go when they are faced with these incredible challenges?”
Joining Pavin and Pearl at the benefit were local football standout and current Dallas Cowboy Jason Witten, voice of the Vols Bob Kesling, basketball legend Skip Brown, Carroll Dale of the Green Bay Packers and Bobby Scott of the New Orleans Saints.
Last year the event raised $239,000, a mark expected to be eclipsed this year.