We stood at the fourteenth tee waiting for the group ahead to play their second shots. Ron Jaworski had his driver in one hand and a scoop of filler dirt in the other. He stepped from divot to divot, pouring in the filler, something any courteous golfer should do. But this was Jaws’ course and he was taking care of it. He has a big event coming up.
"We’ll be out with my good friend Jim McMahon and his wife," he said. "We have a lot of fun. We’ll be having a good time then Jim will lean over to me and ask ‘Jaws, what are we doing here?’ He’s 55. He’s 55 years old and can’t remember where he is and how he got there."
It was a sobering moment in an otherwise incredible day. I was paired with Jaws to play the back nine at Blue Heron Pine Golf Club, where the 31st annual Ron Jaworski Celebrity Golf Challenge will be held this Monday in Egg Harbor City, NJ.
"Let’s do it," I said, shaking his hand. "Thanks for driving." Pun intended.
He laughed, "Let’s play some golf."
He was freshly shaven and wore a red shirt with grey pressed slacks despite the hot, humid weather. A lesser man (like me) would have melted. Yet Jaws was cool, collected, and… he smelled heavenly; as perfectly manicured as the golf course on which we played. Throughout the day Jaws repaired random divots, straightened fallen pylons, chatted with the grounds keepers. As you might expect, he knew everyone. And he was having fun.
At the par three eleventh, Jaws pointed to a small hillside pot bunker at the front of the green, a threatening little impediment that was just four feet wide and about as deep. Even more threatening was the grass growing from its head. It added another two-to-three feet to an impossible sand trap. I wondered how many golf balls it swallowed. "That," said Jaws, "is Satan’s asshole." He swung his eight iron and his Nike ball soared with loft worthy of the club, but his ball ended up being the latest to enter the trap. Given the timing, I couldn’t tell whether it was intentional.
Jaws at play https://t.co/fcMpIclv1a— Jerome's Friend (@JeromesFriend) June 11, 2015
Jaws is a really good player who typically shoots in the high 70’s. He has eyes like… an eagle… often demonstrating an uncanny, inhuman ability to find balls flown astray. His fondness for golf made the game an obvious platform for promoting his charity work. As a friend of mine often says when on the course, "The road to the green is paved with good intentions." Truer words were never applied here. Since its inception, the Celebrity Golf Challenge has raised nearly $5 million to benefit the Jaws Youth Playbook (JYP) foundation.
The mission of the JYP is to improve the overall health and wellness of at-risk youth in the Greater Philadelphia area through building playgrounds, providing sporting equipment, and supporting inner-city farmers markets. There are many success stories; here are a few:
- Through a JYP grant, the Woodland Academy Child Development Center was able to replace the play surface for the playground in the Cobb’s Creek section of Philadelphia.
- A JYP grant helped fund the Eastern Tower Community center in Chinatown, which provides recreational, educational, cultural and healthcare services for the community.
- JYP teamed with the Police Athletic League (PAL) to help with funding after school fitness and mentoring programs in Atlantic City.
This year, for the first time, the event has partnered with the NFL Alumni (NFLA) Association’s Caring for Kids and Caring for Our Own programs. There are former NFL players like Jim McMahon, but there others who need even more help. "A lot of people think that if a guy was an NFL player, they’re set for life," said Jaws. "But it’s not the case. A lot of former players are piss poor and can’t even afford health care. We need to help those guys and their families."
As you would imagine, Jaws is a talker and on this day he didn’t disappoint. He talked about his work at ESPN and NFL Films. He’s been watching the NBA Playoffs (he’s rooting for the Golden State Warriors), and told a story about a woman named Monica who used to live in a house alongside the fairway near the sixteenth tee. She routinely distracted players with her *cough* beauty. No coincidence it is the toughest hole on the course. And, at one point, he ran over to a groundskeeper and told him, "You need to trim a few inches off Satan’s Asshole." Jaws, the perfectionist.
Our conversation eventually turned to the Eagles. "I have no idea what Chip is doing," he said. "but it sure is exciting." When asked about Evan Mathis, he answered instantly, "Mathis ain’t gonna be here next year." This wasn’t based on any insider information, it was just his read on the situation, and a damn shame too because according to Jaws, Mathis is the "Velcro" of the offensive line. [Update: this was written before Mathis was released. And look, Jaws was right.]
Another former Eagles quarterback, Joe Pisarcik, played in the group behind us. Pisarcik is infamously well known for the "Miracle at the Meadowlands." As quarterback for the New York Giants, he and Larry Csonka botched a handoff in the closing seconds of a game against the Eagles. Herman Edwards recovered the fumble and returned it for the game-winning touchdown. Today, Pisarcik is President and CEO of the NFL Alumni Association and has since redeemed himself, engineering different kinds of miracles.
Fifteen years ago, Pisarcik was at home playing with his daughter when he received a phone call. "I was an alternate for the Golf Challenge and someone couldn’t make it. It was last minute and I needed to leave right away. I didn’t know what to do. I ended up making quick arrangements and got over there just in time. And I ended up winning the damn thing." This year, however, Pisarcik’s involvement is a bit different. "I’ve participated in the [Ron Jaworski] Celebrity Golf Challenge for many years," he said. "By bringing Ron and the NFLA together, we look forward to amplifying the support for both his Jaws Youth Playbook and the NFLA’s charitable programs."
Prior to hitting his approach shot at the 327-yard par 4 tenth, Jaws said he received a text from Michael Vick, "He just said he’ll be at the event." Vick highlights a group of 60 celebrities, athletes, coaches, and broadcasters playing in this year’s Challenge. Some others include Jon Dorenbos, Garry Cobb, Todd McShay, Sal Paolantonio, Mike Quick, Harold Carmichael, Dante Hall, Santonio Holmes, Donte Stallworth, Mike Mamula, Bernie Parent, Brian Propp, Jon Runyan, Jeremiah Trotter, Warren Sapp, Everson Walls, and one of my personal faves, Ickey Woods.
Jaws offered a taste of the scramble format for the Challenge. There will be longest drive and closest-to-the-pin competitions. One of those holes is the par 3, 150 yard sixteenth. After Jaws’ shot faded a bit right, off the green, I dug my tee into the ground, placed my Titleist on top and sized up my six iron. A little too anxious, I picked up my head on my downswing and topped it. Pissed, I claimed a mulligan (not my only one of the day). I placed another ball on the tee, took a deep breath and with my next swing, struck the ball solid, sticking it to the front of the green about 24 feet short of the pin. It ended up being the closest and was one of those shots that keeps me coming back to the course. On Monday, I expect there will be better shots played for a much better cause. There a lot of local kids and NFL families counting on it.
***HUGE thanks to Brandon for giving me this opportunity. It was an absolute blast.***