Mike Norvell on supporting the Danny Thomas Celebrity-Am and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
Jason Munz, The Commercial Appeal
COLLIERVILLEÂ â€” For one hole, Memphis football coach Mike Norvell wasn’t the star of his playing group at the Danny Thomas Celebrity-Am
At the fifth hole at Spring Creek Ranch on Wednesday, Norvell’s group was greeted by a patient from St. JudeÂ Children’s Hospital. Someone asked if he wanted to putt.
With a smile, the child agreed and walked ahead of the group towardÂ the green. He grabbed theÂ putter, slowly eyed his shot and calmly sank it like a seasoned pro.
The group all cheered and Norvell raised his fist to celebrate. Before leaving, Norvell walked to his cart and autographed a golf ball.Â
“That was awesome,” said Norvell shortly afterward.Â
The tournament was his last chance to relax before practice starts on Aug. 2, but he also made it a priority as he did the past three years at the FedEx St. Jude Classic Pro-Am.
The same could be said for Tigers men’s basketball coach Penny Hardaway. He and Norvell played together last year during the pro-am. Although they played in different groups this year, they carried the same message ofÂ Memphis taking care of its own.
On Wednesday, patients from St. JudeÂ got excited when they saw him walking the course and called out to him. But Hardaway was happier to see them.
“Every time it happens I’m honored,” Hardaway said.Â For someone to say your name or want your autograph, it says a lot so I’m thankful for that.”
On Monday, Hardaway, assistant coach Tony Madlock and director of player personnel Dwight Boyd stood at a news conference while Shelby County Schools superintendent Joris RayÂ announced a newÂ initiative to help raise education rates in African-AmericanÂ male students.Â
Hardaway said the initiative, called “Our Boys Need Us,” reminded him of growing up in a strict household under his grandmother, which he credited forÂ keepingÂ him out of trouble.
“We wanted to support not only the superintendent butÂ the movement of wanting to help young black boys understand that it’s some great role models out here and you can achieve anything that you want and that we care,” Hardaway said.
That message carried to the celebrity-am where athletes like Terrell Owens, JR Smith and David Wells walked the course along with “The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison and others.
Harrison said that as a father, the message of St. Jude resonated with him so it sparked his desire to returnÂ to Memphis for the first time since 1995 when he was a broadcaster for Oklahoma basketball.
Chris Harrison on why he came to Memphis to support the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and the Danny Thomas Celebrity-Am
Jason Munz, The Commercial Appeal
“I have two kids and there by the grace of God, it could’ve been any of us sitting in that hospital,” Harrison said. “Anything we can do to help, needless to say, is the least we can do.”
There was also room for fun. Hardaway’s group finished 14-under, one lower than his group’s score last year.
Norvell, however, got the greater joy on his final hole. He sank a putt for birdie and pumped his fist while the group cheered as they did seven holes earlier for another big putt.
It was a perfect finish for the last round he’ll play for at least five months, and he imagined itÂ as aÂ good omen returning to football prep.
“Let’s hope that’s a good sign for the season,” Norvell said.
Memphis basketball coach Penny Hardaway hits the ball during the Danny Thomas Celebrity-am on Wednesday at Spring Creek Ranch Golf Course in Collierville, July 24, 2019. The World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational tees off on Thursday morning at TPC Southwind. Â (Photo: Brad Vest/The Commercial Appeal)
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