Historic Jim Kelly Classic Golf Tournament at Terry Hills as former Buffalo Bills QB announces ESPN award and celebrities come out to honor him
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Historic Jim Kelly Classic Golf Tournament at Terry Hills as former Buffalo Bills QB announces ESPN award and celebrities come out to honor him

Jun 5, 2018

It was emotional. It was fun. And it was historical.

“It” was the 32nd annual Jim Kelly Celebrity Golf Tournament at Terry Hills in Batavia.

During a Facebook Live video on the Batavia Daily News Facebook site, Kelly announced he will be awarded the Jimmy V Perseverance Award during the 2018 ESPY’s in July.

Despite coming off another battle with cancer, this time a surgery that removed part of his jaw just two months ago, the 58-year-old Hall of Famer and former Buffalo Bills quarterback was on the course and talking to old friends.

“Batavia has been awesome, to have my golf tournaments here at Terry Hills, is a life-saver,” Kelly told the Daily News after cutting the ribbon on a new foot bridge on the course. “By having it here it has made us probably an extra $50,000 to $75,000 by having as many people as we have here. We are trying to talk them into having nine more holes because we are selling so many foursomes with five people.”

Kelly then added, “I love this place, I love the people, they are awesome.”

The tournament helps the Kelly for Kids foundation which has distributed close to $5 million to charity over the years.

Kelly was enjoying the day. He grabbed the oversized ribbon-cutting scissors from Genesee County Chamber of Commerce President Tom Turnbull and made plenty of jokes, even trying to cut the hair of a child running around collecting autographs.

He also talked about Thurman Thomas getting his number retired by the Bills this season.

“When Bruce went up, we all messed with Thurman because Bruce went up before him. When it comes to the best Buffalo Bill ever. We never have to tell Bruce because Bruce will tell us!” Kelly joked. “I love Thurman, we talk about being a close-knit family. Terry and Kim Pegula were here last night and I know how busy they are. I am smiling a lot. People are here and it’s not for me, it’s for the kids.”

There were Kelly Tough signs all over the golf course.

“People talk about the Kelly Tough part, but even when you are strong you question why this keeps happening. I know why. And I’ve been through a lot. But faith is No. 1 and I know why I am still here.

“I was told a week and a half ago I’m the recipient of the Jimmy V award (at the ESPY’s). People say ‘that is awesome’ but the only thing bad about it is, you had to go through a lot in order to get that award!” Kelly continued. “But I know in my heart the good Lord put me in a situation to not only help people suffering from cancer, but little kids too who are going through tough time and to never give up.”

When the camera shut off, Kelly then turned back to the Buffalo and Rochester media and said, “Thank you all so much, and thank you for being here. “

Kelly wants the tournament to continue in Batavia.

“As my brother Danny said last night, I hope we can do this for another 40 or 50 years,” he said.

Several celebrities talked to the Daily News about Kelly, the tournament, Terry Hills and Batavia as well as what they are doing now.

Former Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood said of Kelly, “It means a great deal aside from football, a personal level, we shared some great times, over the years we got to know each other better on a personal level. He was a magical player, but personally, with his family and battling this for a third time and coming back, he is a tough individual and I’m so glad he’s doing so well.”

Why does Norwood come back to Batavia?

“For many years I was doing other golf tournaments, but it’s great to get back here and aside from football, the time we spent together was wonderful,. There was skill but these are guys of character and that shines through and why we won,” Norwood said.

As for the current Buffalo Bills, Norwood though back to his first two seasons with the team when the Bills won two and four games and how things changed.

The direction (of the current team) seems terrific. It reminds me of my first few years, Ferragamo was the quarterback. Jim Kelly shows up from the USFL Gamblers, Bruce Smith is drafted and everything just changed. I sense it again, another turn is occurring,” said Norwood. “There was a taste of the playoffs and I don’t think the drought will be that long before they get back in the playoffs again.”

Actor Dennis Haskins, known for his role of Mr. Belding on Saved by the Bell was at Terry Hills for the 18th year.

“I love the people of Batavia and the owners of the course, it’s like family to us,” said Haskins. “There is no one tougher than Jim Kelly, he hosted an even (Sunday) and he is amazing.”

Talk show host and actor Steve Wilkos said of Kelly, “He is a tremendous guy and has been so nice to me, he is a fighter and a positive inspiration to me.”

NFL Hall of Famer and former Buffalo Bill great Bruce Smith was a little chocked up talking about Kelly.

‘It’s ... it’s ... it’s tough to see my brother struggle, the way he has been battling this cancer,” said Smith. “But the way we all come here and support him and support his cause, we are here to brighten his day and just show him that we love him and care for him.”

Howard Schnellenberger was on the staff of the undefeated Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins, he recruited Joe Namath to Alabama, coached 11 teams but his favorite memories were with Jim Kelly.

Do I remember it (recruiting Kelly)? Of course I do! Jim Kelly took me quite a while!” Said Schnellenberger. “I didn‘t know who would be our quarterback, I had three All-American’s. But he won the job and I started him against Penn State without telling him until we had our pre-game meal. He promptly went out and threw up, like he said he did in high school, which I didn’t know, so that scared me half to death.

“But he went out and destroyed Penn State, and that was the first big game of his four years for us at the University of Miami.“

Kelly’s college coach looked around Terry Hills with pride.

“I can’t imagine him doing this for 32 years, I can’t imagine him doing this after three operations, but I can’t imagine him doing anything else until the good Lord takes him home,” he added. “This is a tribute to Jim and professional football. “

Dean Cain said he loves the joke his former head coach Marv Levy tells, when he says the Bills were so good, they cut Superman. Cain, an actor who played Superman, actually injured his knee in pre-season, joining the team out of Princeton. His acting career took off after he was released.“A lot of people try to distance themselves from characters, I embrace it ... it’s Superman!” said Cain, who was named the 2004 People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive. Cain is shooting a movie in West Virginia, he is on the show Super Girl, has been in four movies this year, co-hosts on the Today Show and Fox and Friends Weekend. But he made time to get to Batavia.

“Anytime I can do something for kids is fantastic and Jim is fantastic and the work he does for kids is amazing. It’s an honor for me. Jim has been through a lot lately and I’m glad I can be here to support him,” said Cain.

Legendary ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman, who introduced Ralph Wilson Jr. during his Hall of Fame induction also made it a point to attend.

“Jim has been through it for three or four years ... this year takes on added meaning ... he represents everyone, everyone feels his pain and roots for him,” said Berman. “But he doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for him. That Bills team, one of the most together team I’ve ever covered in any sport at anytime and Jim is the figure head of those teams.”

Last year, Berman got to Terry Hills and called a person over by name he only met once. This year, he seemed to know everyone and was a favorite of the staff.

“Terry Hills, they are great hosts and hostesses. They welcome us with open arms. This is not your normal golf tournament, it’s not being looked at for a U.S. Open!“ he joked. “I love the course, it’s why I come back every year. It’s always in good shape, everyone wants to help us and have a good time. I think they roll their eyes sometime, when it is over! But they always tell us they can’t wait for us to come back and you know they mean it.”

Berman then added, “Batavia? Do they still have the trotters here? The Berman Boomer won here, it made the Swami!“

LPGA Professional Cindy Miller is in the Top 30 money list and also was named one of Golf Digest’s top teaching professionals in the world. She couldn’t wait to get back to Terry Hills.

“I love this place, I love the Rotundo’s. When I first came here I thought, ‘What is this place?’ And it you can’t beat them, join them,” said Miller. “And I’ve been back here every year since.”

NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, a former Dallas Cowboy, won a Super Bowl against the Bills.

“In (Jim Kelly’s) whole life, everything has been incredible. This is the 32nd year of doing this golf tournament and 31 years of a football camp, that is so many years of pouring so many good things into the community,” said Irvin. “We are old boys now, we competed against each other, we see each other during Hall of Fame events, I take the opportunity to come out and see everyone,. This even is incredible, what a job everyone has done.”

Buffalo native and former NBA player Willie Hutch Jones now provides educational and athletic opportunities for children (whjsc.org) and teaches in Buffalo. A long way from his L.A. Clippers days.

“I used to watch the Buffalo Braves play. I would buy a ticket in the orange seats, if someone wasn’t in a gold seat by halftime, we would sneak down there and meet the players. That’s the aud. That’s the nostalgia of Buffalo,” he said. “I am a high school teacher, I run a foundation, we have done free programs for kids for 30 years. It gives you a reason to wake up in the morning.”

Ted “The Stork” Hendricks won four Super Bowls, one with the Colts, three with the Raiders.

“The first one was the most spectacular one, I am glad I got that one out of the way and the other three just fell in there,” he said with a laugh, knowing the Bills lost four in a row. “The Raiders are very special and still are. They invite us up to training camp and take care of us during the season, they are a big family and (owner) Mark Davis is doing a great job by us.”

At 6-foot-7, 220 pounds, he was a giant in football. He knows what players feel today.

“They are getting taller and bigger. That’s what I was when I started out, bigger and stronger,” he added..

Danielle Rotondo, banquet and restaurant manager at Terry Hills had a few minutes to talk, as many of the golfers and celebrities stopped her on the course and spent time with the staff.

“This means the world to us, we wouldn’t want it any other place and we are happy to host year after year. Showing the celebrities not just our course but what Batavia and Genesee County has to offer,” she said. “We try to make it very personal. We want them to know when they come here they are home, we take pride of showing a sense of community.“

As for Kelly wanting to make the tournament bigger?

“Jim always wants to do more here and it’s why he wants to do more here with us,” Rotondo said. “We had 53 five-somes. In the past we had up to 63 five-somes. We try to get as many as we can, we will always find a home.“

Also, a new ribbon was cut for a foot bridge on the course by Jim Kelly.

“I want to thank the community businesses that helped us out,” said Rotondo.

Other celebrities at the tournament included Jim Burt, Steve Tasker, Joe Delamielleure, Warren Sapp, Gus Williams, Kurt Schultz, Daniel Baldwin, Don Beebe, Scott Chandler, Eric Wood, Anthony Munoz, Gerald McNeil, Marty Biron, Jeff Nixon, Bill Polian, Pete Metzelaars, Butch Rolle, Brad May, Jerry Saganowich, Frank Winters, Colton Schmidt, Thurman Thomas, Victor Green, Barbie Blank, Phil Housley, Brian Knobbs, John Davis, Ed Rutkowski, Chris Mohr, Joe Cribbs, Lou Piccone (who sang the National Anthem), Booker Edgerson, Cornelius Bennett, Nick O’Leary and Kyle Williams.

By John Anderson, Batavia Daily News

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