Sports legends Tom Watson, George Brett continue raising ALS awareness

Both at 36th annual Joe McGuff ALS Golf Challenge
Posted: 5:43 PM, May 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-06 20:55:39-04
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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — There aren't many causes that can continuously grab the attention of two sports legends like Tom Watson and George Brett.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's Disease, continues to be one of those causes near and dear to both the professional golfer and former Kansas City Royals star. The two were once again present Monday at the 36th annual Joe McGuff ALS Golf Classic at the Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate in Overland Park, Kansas.

Both players have kept a promise to continue raising awareness of the disease. That promise originally started when Brett held the first celebrity golf tournament in 1983, known then as the George Brett Celebrity Golf Classic. It was renamed in 2003 in honor of longtime Kansas City sports writer Joe McGuff.

The disease hits especially close to home for Watson, whose former caddie died of ALS.

"Your mind is trapped and your body is deteriorating," Watson said. "To see people go through this is devastating. I mean, there's not enough compassion in the world to give these people who get this damned disease."

While Brett's work on the baseball diamond has long since finished, he says that his work will never be done spreading the awareness of ALS until there's a cure for the disease. He was especially touched by University of Central Missouri graduate and 16-year Army veteran Tony Vick, who learned only a few years ago that he had ALS.

"There's an extra meaning to me this year because of the relationship that I have with a patient that got this so early in life," Brett said. "I'm looking forward to meeting (tournament honoree Tony Vick). What a great life he's had. He served our country for 16 years. And, with the diagnosis of ALS, his new outlook on life, I wanna hear it."

Vick said he has lived by the motto, "Faith Over Fear." He said that symptoms from the disease started showing during the winter of 2014. Various doctor visits did not confirm ALS until he was diagnosed by a neurologist on Sept. 20, 2017.

Since then, the disease has contributed to the significant loss of function in his arms, hands, legs, feet, breathing, swallowing and speech. But Vick remains encouraged and said he's able to cope with the disease with the support of his wife and family.

"With the family and friends that I have (and) obviously my wife, she takes care of me," Vick said. "My immediate family that's here with me, they help with everything. We've got really good friends that put together different fundraiser events. They put together 5Ks and all kinds of stuff to help pay for medical bills when it first started. And obviously with our 'Faith Over Fear' motto, God's in control of everything."

Vick is also a lifelong Royals fan. He became excited at the prospect of meeting his hero — George Brett.

"I thought it was awesome," Vick said with a smile. "For them to take their time and put this together and sponsor this and everything (else), it's awesome."

The celebrity golf tournament, sponsored by the ALS Association Mid-America Chapter, continues to raise funds for ALS research. Celebrities such as former 41 Action News sports director Frank Boal, former Kansas City Royals player Al Fitzmorris and former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Trent Green, among others, took part in the tournament Monday.

ALS Association Mid-America Chapter CEO and Executive Director Coleen Wachman also participated in the event. She said she appreciates the support generated through the yearly golf tournament.

"The money that we're raising at the ALS Joe McGuff Golf Classic is absolutely incredible and so vital in us continuing to provide the much-needed services for those families that are affected by ALS," Wachman said. "(It's incredible) when you have two of Kansas City's most iconic athletes who are participating in this day. And I will tell you they participate much more than just in this day ....Their dedication and commitment is second-to-none."