A Tremendous Man on the Field and the Fairway

The Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Tournament, now in its 5th year at Gray’s Crossing, represents an exceptional feel-good event in celebration of great man and supporting a noble cause.

Gene Upshaw, best known as the Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders and later as the long-tenured Executive Director of the NFL Player’s Association, was a long-time resident of the Tahoe Truckee Region and a member of the Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing.

Having grown up in Oakland as a devoted fan of the Raiders until their departure for Los Angeles in the early 80’s, there was no greater icon for the silver and black than Gene Upshaw. To my delight, I had the privilege of seeing and speaking with him numerous times over the years at Northstar, culminating in time spent around the Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing.

Upon his passing in 2008, Gene’s wife Terri has done an exceptional job of keeping his memory alive through the Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Tournament. Hosted at Gray’s Crossing, the tournament pairs a foursome with a prominent athlete, the majority of which have roots in the Silver and Black. Among those in attendance over the years have been Hall of Famers Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott, Tim Brown as well as Raider luminaries Raymond Chester, Tom Flores, Mike Haynes, James Lofton, and Rod Martin. NFL greats Herm Edwards, Sam McCullum, Keenan McCardell, and Gary Plummer have joined Olympic athletes Daron Rahlves and Jeff Hamilton as well as other celebrity golfers.

Among the great moments over the years have been Sterling Sharpe preaching to a group of Truckee High School football players volunteering at the event about how the skinny kids should be lineman and big kids should be receivers. On another occasion, Jeff Barnes auctioned the privilege of playing with him to the high bidder and netted over $10,000.

The Tournament has raised funds for the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center; a state-of-the-art treatment facility opened in July 2012, under the guidance of renowned oncologist and dear friend Dr. Larry Heifitz. The impact of this facility on the Tahoe Truckee Region cannot be overstated as it provides those suffering from cancer a remarkable standard of care in an environment that promotes joy and healing.

The opportunity to participate in this event over the past several years has been a personal privilege on so many fronts. Beginning with roots in Oakland in celebration of a tremendous man who I had the pleasure of knowing, hosted at a facility for which I have tremendous pride and ownership, and a cause near and dear to me under the guidance of a physician that I hold in the highest esteem both personally and professionally.

To further the personal connection, one of the participating celebrities, former Dallas Cowboy Eric Bjornson is a childhood friend and the brother-in-law of Brian Rogers, my partner in all four years of the tournament. I cannot confirm or deny that certain trades have been made to ensure that our group stays together. While a Super Bowl Champion, Eric’s Q-rating may be slightly below that of certain Hall-of-Famers in attendance. You can imagine Tim Brown’s surprise to learn that he had been traded straight up for Eric Bjornson at last year’s event.

To learn more about this great event visit http://www.gu63.org/home.