Olie & Stu's Desert Bash raises $200,000 for autism

Tri-City HeraldJuly 23, 2012 

— It’s not enough that Carey Price recently signed a multi-million dollar deal with the Montreal Canadiens, but the NHL goalie also walked away with the longest drive and closest-to-the-pin titles Monday at Olie & Stu’s Desert Bash charity golf tournament.

Former Seattle Seahawk Alonzo Mitz was keeping an eye on the competition during the long drive event, but after Price belted the ball 348 yards, he made a comment about special allowances for guys who have hit retirement age.

It was all fun and games as the final round of the event got under way at Meadow Springs Country Club in Richland.

“This is such a great event,” said former Tri-City Americans coach Bob Loucks, who was playing with the CH2M Hill group. “It’s hard to say no. The whole thing is first class all the way. The people who come here support this event so well, and it’s nice to see former players you coached. It’s great to sit around and tell stories.”

The Lockheed Martin group led the Carson Kolzig Foundation Division after the first day, while Mission Support Alliance was atop the Responding to Autism Division.

After the second day of scores were added in, Heritage Professional Landscaping (Randy Mendenhall, Bill Monson, John Montero, Josh Brimberry and Ryan Beauchamp) won the Carson Kolzig Foundation Division with a 221. Former Portland Trail Blazer Greg Smith and his Kennewick General Hospital team were second at 228.

In the Responding to Autism Division, Bank of the West (Tom Arnold, Dennis Janikowski, Casey Hart, Darren Chase and Jim Hammond) finished first at 215, followed by Mission Support Alliance at 220.

Tournament co-founder Olie Kolzig had a seat on the sidelines Sunday, but put together a team for Monday’s round.

“I had hip surgery seven weeks ago today,” Kolzig said Monday. “Originally, I called and said I couldn’t participate because my surgeon said the end of August, but I’m 4 weeks ahead of schedule in rehab. I played last weekend in DC for the developmental camp, and everything felt fine. I called and said ‘I’m in.’ When I got here, they said ‘we have too many celebrities, we’re going to designate you to the beverage cart.’ I host my own tournament and I can’t even play.”

Price’s winning putt fell short of the cup by just 11 inches. For his efforts, Price won a Never Compromise putter in the long drive contest, and a Cleveland driver in putting contest.

The Desert Bash, now in its 12th year, raised $200,000 this year through sponsorships, auctions, cash gifting and raffles. The cash donations this year tallied $40,000.

The hot auction item was a Florida fun package that included tickets to a Tampa Bay Lightning game, tickets to a New York Yankees spring training game and accommodations that went for more than $4,000.

Former Tri-City American Dylan Stanley, who offered up his jersey from his team in Germany last season, joked that he hoped to get at least $25 for the game-worn jersey, complete with signature and black scuff marks left by pucks. It went for $88.

The money raised goes to the Carson Kolzig Foundation, whose primary services are delivered through the Responding to Autism Center in Kennewick.

“I think the recession finally hit the Tri-Cities,” Kolzig said, “but we still had a tremendous turnout and so many generous people. The last three years have been absolute home runs. We never thought we could reach those numbers (almost $300,000). This year, I think we are back to reality, but that said, we still had a tremendous weekend.

“We have some other ventures with Gordon Brothers Winery for a blend wine which we hope will be on the market next year. We just aren’t solely relying on the Bash to raise funds for the foundation. I really love the direction we are going in.”

The Responding to Autism Center opened in March 2010 and serves on average about a 1,000 families a year, according to Kellee Balcom, Executive Director of the Carson Kolzig Foundation.

“We are very fortunate in this community to have a center like that,” said Kolzig, whose 11-year-old son Carson is autistic. “It’s gratifying, but sobering to see how many kids are affected. It’s one in 88 now. Just to have that facility and be able to give families an outreach of services, not only a source to go there for programs and workshops, but a way to get directed to speech and occupational therapists. It is a fantastic venue. It’s something that somewhere down the road we are looking to expand.

“Even though we aren’t here physically year around, my heart is here in the Tri-Cities and with the foundation,” continued Kolzig, who moved to the East Coast last year for his job as goaltending coach for the Washington Capitals. “For anyone out there questioning if the foundation exists anymore because I’m not here, as long as the building is there and needs funding and there are kids with autism in the Tri-Cities, the foundation will continue.”

* Annie Fowler: 509-582-2574; afowler@tricityherald.com

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