Big Ben = Big Draw
COLLIER TWP. - Move over Michael Jordan. You're no longer the No. 1 draw at the Mellon Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational. The main man now is Ben Roethlisberger.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' hot-shot quarterback made his Lemieux tournament debut Thursday in a pro-am round at The Club at Nevillewood, and it's hard to imagine any of the 50-some celebrities who played having more fun.
Roethlisberger, a member at Nevillewood, engaged in conversation all day with his playing partners and fans. Unlike so many of the celebrities who routinely ignore spectators, Roethlisberger graciously signed autographs for virtually every boy or girl who asked.
"I only sign for kids," said Roethlisberger, who, at one point during his round, walked right by a man who asked, "Ben, can you sign your rookie card for me?"
With a 12:40 p.m. tee time, Roethlisberger played in a foursome that included three men who work at the Bayer complex in Robinson Township. One of them was Rainer Schorr, a German native who's been living in the Pittsburgh area for six years.
"Playing with Ben was a treat," Schorr said. "He is one of the nicest persons on the planet.
"I have played here three years in a row now," added Schorr, whose celebrity the past two years were former major-leaguers Gary Carter and Rick Rhoden. "I've been lucky to play with some nice people, but Ben was the nicest of them all. He talked all day long. He talked to us. He talked to the crowd. He's a very animated fellow. You can tell he had so much fun."
An 8 handicap, Roethlisberger is obviously quite a solid player.
"He's long off the tee, real long," said Raccoon Township's Dirk Hartman, an assistant pro at Nevillewood who often plays with Roethlisberger. "He absolutely crushes the ball. He's not the greatest putter in the world and he needs to work more on his irons. But he's like a surgeon around the green.
"He may miss some greens, but he'll get up and down because he chips it so close."
Even though the format for Thursday's pro-am was a best-ball-of-four handicap event, Roethsliberger still kept his own score. He shot a 4-over 40 on the front and a 1-under 35 on the back.
"I'm scrambling for pars," he said with a smile after parring the first two holes.
On the day, Roethlisberger recorded three birdies, nine pars and six bogeys. Two of his birdies came on par 5s.
"It was awesome being able to be out there with him today," said Mark Flisek, a 20-year-old junior at Penn State University who served as Roethlisberger's caddie. "We had a good time. He's a very friendly guy and an excellent player."
In today's pro-am, Roethlisberger will tee off at 9:50 a.m.
On Saturday and/or Sunday when celebrities play in threesomes, Roethlisberger will be paired with some of the tournament's biggest names. There's a chance he'll play with Lemieux and Jordan on Saturday. On Sunday, he may be paired with Dan Marino and John Elway.