KTM golf tourney keeps focus on cancer research

Politicians have lent their prestige to the Danny Thompson Memorial golf tournament since former President Gerald Ford and House Speaker Tip O’Neill attracted a crowd at Sun Valley in the first fundraising tournament in 1977.

There was a time, six years later, when Democrat O’Neill and Republican Bob Michel stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other Thompson Memorial men on the lawn outside Sun Valley Opera House and sang patriotic songs together in a barbershop quartet format.

Such togetherness between political rivals in a public setting is rarely seen in 2018.

For many reasons, no politicians are expected at Sun Valley and Elkhorn this weekend when the now-Killebrew-Thompson Memorial golf tournament is held for a 42nd time.

Having no politicians around might seem a good thing to some, but in the past politicians attracted lobbyists to the KTM tourney, in theory expanding the event’s reach and fundraising capabilities.

But changes in congressional ethics rules over the past few years along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision in early June to shorten the annual U.S. Senate August recess from a full month to one week are reasons for the absence of politicians in 2018.

The D.C. decisions have reverberated all the way to Idaho, where the number of golfers due to participate in the 2018 Killebrew-Thompson golf tournament has dropped from 180 last year, to 130 when the tournament tees off Friday.

KTM executive director Hannah Stauts said last week, “Changes in the Senate recess have had big impacts. We have fewer golfers because of the Washington, D.C. impact. It’s a bit of a transition for us. We hope to see more elected officials participate in the future.”

Although times have certainly changed in U.S. politics, the laser focus of the KTM golf tournament remains on raising money for cancer research. It’s been enormously successful, from the $21,000 raised in 1977 to last year’s record-setting net total of $1 million for research.

In 41 years, KTM has raised more than $16.6 million for cancer research, split between University of Minnesota-Masonic Cancer Research Center in Minneapolis and St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI) of Boise.

Since MSTI opened in 1969, it has become Idaho’s largest provider of cancer care services. And the KTM benefit event has become an integral part of MSTI’s fundraising.

“We’ve been so fortunate with consistent sponsorship and participation,” said Stauts.

She added, “We hope to have the same sponsorship income level. Our goal is to be sustainable at the $1 million level and hit last year’s numbers. Our participants come from many industries, and they bring along vendors and partners.”

The tournament has been pivoting away from a focus on sports and entertainment celebrities, Stauts said. But the KTM is fortunate to have several well-known figures who are returning year after year.

Among the sports celebrities expected back this year are baseball’s Bobby Grich, Jim Nettles, Bill Buckner and Paul Hartzell, along with ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman and pro football Hall of Fame placekicker Jan Stenerud, a Montana State University two-sport All-American.

Idaho-based musician Muzzie Braun will entertain the KTM tournament participants at Thursday’s Trail Creek Cabin welcome barbecue.

Here are capsules of sports stars due here in Sun Valley:

· Paul Hartzell, 64, from Hailey, is a former member of the KTM board of directors who received the 2002 Chairman’s Award for exemplary service. He has participated in the KTM tournament for many years and is returning in 2018.

Hartzell, from Bloomsburg, Pa., played baseball and basketball at Lehigh University. A 6-5, 200-pound righthanded pitcher, he first played in the major leagues in 1976 for manager Dick Williams and the California Angels.

· Bill Buckner, 68, from Napa, Ca., played 2,517 major league baseball games for five teams during a 22-year career from 1969-90. His career batting average was .289, including a National League batting title for the Chicago Cubs in 1980 with a .324 average.

· Jan Stenerud, 75, from Fetsund, Norway, was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991 after a distinguished 19-year career placekicking for the Kansas City Chiefs (1967-79), Green Bay Packers (1980-83) and Minnesota Vikings (1984-85).

The first Norwegian to play in the National Football League, Stenerud was one of football’s first-ever “soccer style” placekickers, along with Hungarian-born Pete Gogolak.

For his pro career, he made 373 of 558 field goal attempts (66.8%) and 580 of 601 extra points (97%). Stenerud became an accomplished golfer, and has played in charity tournaments throughout the West.

· Bobby Grich, 69, played 17 American League seasons for the Baltimore Orioles and the California Angels from 1970-86 and logged a .266 career batting average in 2,008 games.

A product of Long Beach’s Woodrow Wilson High School and UCLA, Grich played seven seasons for the Orioles and was the slick-fielding second baseman for one of baseball’s all-time great infields with third baseman Brooks Robinson, shortstop Mark Belanger and first baseman Boog Powell.

· Jim Nettles, 71, of San Diego, is the younger brother of former New York Yankees third-sacker Graig Nettles. Jim Nettles played for the Minnesota Twins from 1970-72 and ended his six-year major league career with Oakland in 1981.

Baseball Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew, who died in 2011, co-founded the Danny Thompson Memorial tournament with business partner Ralph Harding. In 2012, it was renamed Killebrew-Thompson Memorial.

Golf tournament format is four-person two-best ball over two days. The 18-hole rounds will be played Friday and Saturday, Aug. 17-18 at Sun Valley and Elkhorn golf courses.

Two special KTM events are open to the public.

KTM’s fourth annual “Cancer in Focus” free informal discussion on current trends in research is Thursday, Aug. 16 from 4-5 p.m. in the Sun Valley Inn Continental Room.

Presenters include Dr. Brenda Weigel from the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center, and Dr. Finn Petersen from St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise.

Saturday’s “1964 The Tribute” outdoor benefit concert focusing on the music of the Beatles will begin at 8 p.m. on the cottage lawn near Sun Valley Lodge—using a specially-built outdoor stage on the lawn.

It is being called “The Concert for Cancer Research.” General admission tickets are $25 per person, free for kids 10-and-younger. Those attending are encouraged to bring a picnic and blanket.

KTM board member and golf participant Mark Johnson from Idaho’s KVTB television is emcee for “The Concert for Cancer Research.” There will be opportunities for audience members to donate to KTM’s cancer research mission during the show, Stauts said.

“Stand Up for a Cure” at KTM auctions

A social and fundraising highlight is the 23rd annual KTM live and silent auction Friday, Aug. 17, in the Limelight Room of the Sun Valley Inn. Live auctioneer is Larry Flynn.

New to the live auction are a seven-night luxury yacht voyage aboard a Sea Dream vessel in either the Mediterranean or Caribbean during 2019, and a rare bottle of Butler’s Reserve Bourbon.

The Auction Gala also features its “Stand Up for a Cure” paddle auction that has become the centerpiece of the Friday night event. Each year, guests are asked to raise their paddles to support the efforts of cancer research—at any monetary level.

Here’s a list of many of the auction items:

Live auction

Caesar Guerini Apex Sporting 12-Gauge shotgun provided by Silver Creek Outfitters;

Freedom Arms Model 97 “Packer” .45 Colt revolver with a custom made grip made from Call sheep horn;

Visit to Las Vegas for the 2018 National Finals Rodeo in December, plus tickets to a George Strait/Lyle Lovett concert;

James Beard House (New York City) private dinner party for 12;

Idaho Middle Fork of the Salmon river trip from Solitude River Trips;

Diamond flower ring from Barry Peterson Jewelers; and Tahitian and South Sea pearl necklace from Jensen-Stern;

Sun Valley Resort has donated a five-night ski or golf getaway;

Arctic Cat Alterra 700 TRV XT four-wheeler;

Pebble Beach three-day golf vacation with access to exclusive Cypress Point.

Silent auction

Norman Rockwell art print of Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson, entitled “Gee, Thanks Brooks!” The signed print donated to KTM by Robinson was originally painted by Rockwell in 1971 and depicts the Orioles’ third baseman autographing a baseball for a young fan;

Duke University and University of Kansas home basketball tickets; the Original KT-15 Fat Boy Electric Scooter; a TaylorMade M3 golf driver; and a TaylorMade lite cart bag; Mont Alpi Pizza Oven; a Pedego electric bike; and a five-day Mariner of the Seas cruise with classic rock entertainment on board;

An autographed Jake Arrieta print; Minnesota Twins ceremonial first-pitch experience; autographed baseball bats by Joe Mauer and Harmon Killebrew; and an autographed Glen Perkins baseball;

Sun Valley Resort 2018-19 ski pass; two-night visit to Shore Lodge in McCall and golf at the Whitetail Club; Sawtooth Valley getaway at Rocky Mountain Ranch; Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort women’s retreat in Lenox, Mass.; Sun Valley getaway at Limelight Hotel

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