There are very few people who can steal the spotlight of an entire golf tournament without ever swinging a club.
But that’s exactly what former Kansas star Mario Chalmers, the hero of the 2008 national title game, did on Monday afternoon at The Jayhawk Club, which hosted Chalmers’ ninth annual charity golf tournament benefitting the Mario V. Chalmers Foundation.
Proceeds from the tournament, along with several other events sponsored by Chalmers’ foundation throughout the weekend, will go to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence’s new Teen Center, which is slated to open in time for the 2018 school year.
For Chalmers, the chance to return to Lawrence on a regular basis has kept alive his connection to the college town. And his father, Ronnie, said the whole thing was merely a case of things working out well for both sides.
“We never in a million years thought we’d be doing something like this,” Ronnie Chalmers said after Monday’s golf tournament. “Mario always talked about giving back to the community. Even as a kid, he had a dream and he introduced us to his dream. He always said he wanted to be in position where he could give back to a community. Well, we’re from North Carolina and he’s from Alaska so geographically, we were thinking those areas. But Kansas had such a big impact on him and this is his home base.”
Chalmers, who recently signed a one-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies to return to the NBA after more than a year away rehabbing an Achilles’ injury, did not participate in the ceremonial swing on the first tee to kick-start Monday’s tournament. But he did make the rounds to visit with and check up on the more than 120 golfers who participated in the event.
“It’s going really good,” Chalmers said during one of his stops on the course. “For this to be the ninth annual event and to have the turnout that we’re having it just shows that the community still believes in me and I love being back. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Asked if he, himself, was ever surprised by all of the love he still receives when he returns to Lawrence, the man who hit arguably the biggest shot in Kansas basketball history said he has never grown tired of reminiscing about the big moment.
“It’s surprising sometimes just because it’s been so long and there’ve been so many faces who’ve come through here,” he admitted. “But like the saying says, legends never die, so I kind of expect it.”
Added Ronnie Chalmers: “You would think that it would get old, after like five or six years, but it just shows you the type of community that Lawrence is and the University of Kansas is. They’re very supportive of their athletes and they stick together and they love their basketball. Mario was fortunate enough to help them win a national championship and, as parents, we feel lucky to see him continue to live out his dream in such a wonderful community.”
As for his return to the court with the Grizzlies, Chalmers, who will team with fellow-former-Jayhawks Ben McLemore and Wayne Selden Jr., in Memphis, said he was eager to get back onto the floor doing what he loves to do.
“It’s been going good,” he said. “I’ve been out there for the last two months and I’m just trying to get everything going and get ready for the season. I’m feeling good. One hundred percent.”