Crosby carries on Lombardi Golf Classic's legacy
MILWAUKEE – As he leans back in his golf cart on a cloudy yet comfortable day at North Hills Country Club, Mason Crosby's face brightens while reflecting on the last eight years.
It's almost like the Green Bay Packers' kicker blinked and suddenly he's an elder statesman in the locker room.
If Jarrett Bush isn't re-signed, Crosby will be the third longest-tenured player on the Packers' roster this season. The fourth oldest, too. Barring the unforeseen, Crosby (1,037 points) will surpass Ryan Longwell (1,054) as the franchise's all-time leading scorer in 2015.
"I think about it sometimes, but while I'm in it, I'm in it. I'm playing," said Crosby of the record. "It's going to be something I'll look back on someday. Right now, I'm enjoying every moment of being it in."
The 30-year-old father of (soon-to-be) three also understands that with age comes responsibility, both in the locker room and the community. That's one of the things that drew him to the Vince Lombardi Golf Classic shortly after he was drafted in 2007.
That, and an appreciation for golf, of course.
Crosby has since become the co-chair of the event with organizer Ben Haas. This weekend, they'll celebrate the classic's 45th anniversary, which began in 1971 when Bart Starr and a number of other Packers came together to raise awareness and money for cancer research after losing their beloved coach to colon cancer.
The event has evolved and taken many different forms since its incarnation, but the mission remains the same. Packers alumni Jerry Kramer, Zeke Bratkowski and Lynn Dickey continue to be active with the event, while Crosby has ushered in a new generation of Packers.
Twelve current players are scheduled to participate in this year's event, including receiver Jordy Nelson, defensive back Micah Hyde and fifth-round pick Brett Hundley. The relationships and principles of the event are what first sold Crosby.
"They did a great job of taking what this event is about and the history and Bart Starr and the legends, and the Packers, and what Vince Lombardi are about and staying true to that," Crosby said. "But then also trying to bring it up to date with what new events are like and some of that stuff. Done a good job of molding it all together. I've just always enjoyed the people and what it's all about. Obviously, I love golf so it's an easy connection."
It's been a historic year for the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation Board. On Friday, it announced a $2.2 million gift to Aurora Health Care at its annual meeting. That money has helped fund 13 clinics in Southeastern Wisconsin and a number of other technological advances.
On a typical year, the goal is to raise about $650,000 over the course of the Foundation's five marquee events, which also include a dinner ball, run/walk, and food and wine tasting experience. However, the hallmark event remains the Lombardi Golf Classic, which usually brings in around $125,000.
Haas became involved with the event around the same time Crosby was entering the league, getting his start on the auction committee. The cause was close to Haas' heart after losing his own father to prostate cancer in 2006.
The classic has a rich history. President Gerald Ford, Bob Hope and former Marquette coach Al McGuire helped established it as a can't-miss event during its early years. Following the recession, however, it became obvious certain aspects required overhauling.
They cut back in some areas and reallocated resources to others. It's seen a resurgence in recent years and even gained a title sponsor for the first time in Annex Wealth Management. If the final few spots fill up, they'll sell out for the fourth consecutive year.
Prior to that, the event hadn't been fully booked in 15 years.
The involvement of Crosby and his wife Molly were critical in that transition. The two have helped pick up where Starr and his wife, Cherry, left off when they stepped down as honorary chairpersons a few years ago.
"It's awesome to think we've been around for 45 years, but it's more challenging to think about how to be around for 90," Haas said. "How we've gotten to where we are comes down to a willingness at the board and committee level to change and improve and be better. That's been fantastic."
Crosby acknowledges the importance of current Packers players getting the opportunity to network with area business people and community members in addition to meeting fans. Seen as a "rite of passage" for many rookies, the classic aims to open many of those doors.
The two-day event begins with a participation round of golf on Friday and gala. The Saturday scramble pairs four players with a celebrity golfer. Former Packers Mark Chmura, Frank Winters and Dave Robinson are among this year's list of roughly 40 participants.
The five-person scramble is open to the public on Saturday with a $10 donation and begins with a shotgun start at 10:30 a.m. Parking is available at Menomonee Falls High School and complimentary shuttle service will be provided from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Like he has for nearly a decade, Crosby will be on the course continuing the tradition of the event.
"He's very active. He takes his role very seriously," Haas said. "We get him whatever he needs and he peppers guys in the locker room, encouraging them to come down. Every year he's chaired it there's been 10-12 current Packers who come down.
"We don't ask a ton of them. It's just an opportunity to come back and be part of a fraternity."
—firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.
The 45th-annual Lombardi Golf Classic
Where: North Hills Country Club
When: 10 a.m. participation round on Friday; 10:30 a.m. shotgun start Saturday.
Cost to play: $1,300 per person (three spots left as of Monday night)
Cost to attend: $10 donation (Saturday only)
More information: www.lombardifoundation.org
Packers scheduled to attend include: Mason Crosby, Jordy Nelson, Jared Abbrederis, Micah Hyde, Scott Tolzien, Brett Hundley, Tim Masthay, Cody Mandell, JC Tretter, Garth Gerhart, Josh Walker, Jeremy Vujnovich