Players hit the links to fight cancer

Players hit the links to fight cancer

CHICAGO -- As a baseball player who is used to games being postponed by the slightest bit of drizzle, Aaron Rowand wasn't about to let a few raindrops spoil golf on his off-day -- even if they were a little heavy.

"My group wanted to go in as soon as it started raining, but I sure didn't," said Rowand, an avid golfer. "I was just disappointed that we didn't get to finish due to the weather."

Rowand was just one of the many current Sox players and coaches that joined with other local sports celebrities to play golf in the "Field of Greens" charity outing on Thursday at Harborside International Golf Center. The event was held to raise money to aid in the research of pediatric oncology in part with Children's Memorial and the Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago.

Over 300 people participated in the event, which was cut a bit short on the golf course by strong thunderstorms. But even a little rain couldn't spoil the opportunity for many of the Sox players to do something very different from their usual routine.

"It was just exciting to get away from the game and be relaxed," Cliff Politte said. "To play golf -- something that I'm no good at -- and to have fun with it."

Politte may think that his golf skills are lacking, but his tee shot to within 15 feet of one of the par-3 holes spoke otherwise. The outing was a team-scramble format, but Politte was even able to sink the short putt himself for an individual birdie.

"I had a nice little hole," Politte said with a chuckle.

Like Politte, manager Ozzie Guillen was quick to downplay his own skills. Guillen plays frequently, but said that if he had to pick which of the White Sox present at the event was the best golfer, he would not even be in the contest.

"I think I'd take Paul Konerko and Freddy Garcia," Guillen said. "Jermaine Dye is pretty good too. I think we have pretty good golfers. [Harold] Baines play pretty good, [Tim] Raines is good, and [Greg] Walker plays well. I think I'm the only one that's really bad."

Though all the Sox who took part in the event enjoyed doing something unrelated to baseball on a rare day off, most of the focus was on what brought everyone together to play golf -- raising money for kids with cancer.

"It's an honor for us to be involved with this," Guillen said. "The people here just want to meet the players, have a good time with the players, get to know them better and it's fun with everyone. Doing something for the community is always nice and for this great cause, it's extra special."

The golf outing is just one of the many events that the Sox host to help raise money for, but for Christine O'Reilly, senior director of community relations for the Sox, it holds special significance because of those who benefit from it.

"I've had the opportunity to go there and see firsthand what goes on -- to see the children and meet the families," O'Reilly said. "To know that we can do just a little bit to advance research to find a cure for cancer, it's incredible. Also [it's great] to know that we get so much support from people and they know that is where their money is going. I think that's why we get so many of our guests that are here today come out year after year, they know that they are making a difference."

That difference is felt by some of the doctors that participated in the event. Dr. John Marcinak, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago, knows what this type of outing can do to help the children that he works with every day.

"It's really essential," Marcinak said of the funds earned. "It's so nice to see everybody get together and have a good time, but know what they are doing is going to benefit children in the long run. It's really important."

That important cause is what made Guillen come out to brave two things he wished he could have avoided on a day off -- his struggling golf game and more questions about the state of his team.

"I got more interviews today than I get at the ballpark," Guillen laughed. "I think every hole I've got some people asking me questions. But it's fun and I think it's good that the players don't think about baseball right now.

"Hopefully, now they show up tomorrow and play the way they should be playing."

Kelly Thesier is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.