History of the Andy Russell Celebrity Classic
Forty years ago, this golf tournament originated when one of Andy’s old college buddies, Steve Jansen of St. Louis, told of a celebrity golf tournament held in St. Louis with golf pro, Hale Irwin, that raised money for Children’s Hospital. Shortly thereafter, Walter Bent, managing director at Xerox Corporation, Sam Zacharias, President of Gateway Pension Planners, and Andy Russell, ex-Steeler and Managing Partner of Russell, Rea and Zappala, decided to try the same thing here in Pittsburgh. Walt Bent contacted Arnold Palmer and Arnie agreed to act as honorary chairman and hosted his first celebrity Golf Classic at Latrobe Country Club in May of 1977. The first sponsors of the event were Westinghouse, US Steel, HJ Heinz, and Xerox Corporation. In 1992, UPMC approached the tournament committee and joined forces to generate funds for UPMC charities such as Children’s Neurosurgery, The Hillman Cancer Center, and the Center for Sports Medicine. This year, funds raised will go to the Department of Urology at UPMC, the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program and the Andy Russell Charitable Foundation.
Over the years, the tournament has been held at many wonderful and challenging golf courses throughout the Pittsburgh area such as Laurel Valley Golf Club, Fox Chapel Golf Club, Sewickley Heights Golf Course, Allegheny Country Club, Chartiers Country Club, Quicksilver, Longue Vue, Southpointe Golf Club and the Club at Nevillewood. This year’s tournament will be held at Allegheny Country Club.
The tournament has had many golfing greats as Hale Irwin, Chi Chi Rodriquez, Big Cat Williams, Fuzzy Zoeller, Tommy Bolt, Bob Toski, the Golfing Gorilla, and Arnie Palmer to conduct golf clinics for our guests. We have also had celebrities attend such as Dick Anderson, Steve Blass, Mel Blount, Myron Cope, Bill Cowher, Chuck Noll, Jack Ham, Rocky Bleier, LC Greenwood, Deacon Jones, Floyd Little, Dan Marino, Merlin Olsen, Lynn Swann, Mario Lemieux, Joe Green, Reggie Jackson, and Franco Harris to name a few.
Of course, the life blood of every major charitable event is sponsorship money and we have been blessed to have the participation of many corporations from not only Pittsburgh, but across the country. We are very grateful for the generosity that they have shown. It is the kindness of our sponsors, the dedication of our committee and volunteers and the participation of our celebrities that have made our tournaments such a success and allow funding for vital healthcare programs.