Country Club of Darien hosts seventh annual NFL Charity Golf Classic
DARIEN -- Country Club of Darien was familiar territory for New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich Monday and not just because he was making his second straight appearance at the NFL Alumni Connecticut Chapter Charity Golf Classic.
The 6-foot-4, 245-pound middle linebacker's mother grew up in Rowayton and his grandmother still resides there, so Country Club of Darien was a site Herzlich enjoyed during the summer.
"This area is special to me, I've been coming here for years, " Herzlich said. "I wasn't a golfer as a kid, but I came here to the pool and hung out."
Golf was on Herzlich's mind at Country Club of Darien Monday, as he joined more than 20 sports celebrities to support the NFL Alumni Connecticut Chapter's seventh annual Charity Golf Classic. The 18-hole scramble tournament included an awards dinner along with a silent and live auction. All proceeds from the event, in which each foursome was led by a current or former NFL player, benefited numerous children's charities in the state.
"Caring for Kids" is our motto and we have been raising between $70-100,000 per year at this tournament, " said NFL Alumni Connecticut Chapter President Steve Thurlow, who played running back for the Giants and Redskins from 1964-68. "It's always really enjoyable."
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"Each year we have grown, " said Kelly McCoy, who along with Mark Yusko, coordinated the tournament. "The Connecticut Chapter is one of the top chapters in the country and each year we seem to do more, going to hospitals like Hartford Medical Center and Stamford Hospital, where we will hand out stuffed animals and books to the children."
Herzlich, who registered 15 tackles and five assists for the Giants last season, liked the team's mindset during the recently concluded mini camp.
"The one think I noticed was that everyone was hungry to get back to the Super Bowl, " Herzlich said. "When you go from winning the Super Bowl to not even making the playoffs, it's a let down and we don't want that to happen again. After we won the Super Bowl in 2012, everyone was feeling good about themselves. Now everyone is hungry. That desire showed in mini camp."
A starter on special teams, Herzlich effectively filled in at middle linebacker last season. After losing middle linebacker and leading tackler Chase Blackburn to free agency the door is open for Herzlich, who will compete with Dan Connor (free agent from Dallas) for the starting spot.
"This year, I'm getting different opportunities to be in the starting lineup, " said Herzlich, an All-American at Boston College.
Overcoming Ewings Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in 2009, Herzlich is accustomed to working hard to get what he wants.
"In no way is the job anyone's yet," Herzlich said. "There will be a lot of competition.
"Dan Connor was a great linebacker at Dallas and everyone is involved in a friendly competition. But everyone also wants to get playing time and do what they can to win."
"The main thing is that we are lending our name for great causes like this, " said Harper, who played for the Jets from 1977-84. "For us to come here, have fun and raise money for kids -- it's a win-win situation."
On NFL Sunday Harper can be found cheering on his former team.
"I can't help but follow the Jets, " Harper said. "I'm a Jet fan for life. I have been saying they are going to win the Super Bowl for years. Hopefully, they will finally get it together."
Watching today's players, Harper can't believe their size.
"When I played, there a couple of guys on each team that weighed 300 pounds, " he said. "Now there are so many guys and they can run fast too and hit you hard.
But they have built their muscles up so much now they get injured more frequently. You can't strengthen the tendons and you can't do anything about concussions."
Maloney, who played in the NHL from 1974-85, currently serves as a hockey analyst for MSG Network. A Greenwich resident, he was also one of the assistant coaches of the Greenwich High boys ice hockey team. Maloney discussed the Rangers' decision to fire coach John Tortorella.
"I was a little surprised when John was let go, " Maloney said. "But his shelf life was probably getting to the end. A lot of people thought he should have gotten a full camp."
The Rangers are reportedly going to introduce Alain Vigneault as their head coach on Thursday.
"He's had some success in Vancouver, which is a big market, " Maloney said. "He put in a lot of time with that franchise and is used to coaching high profile players. I think there are some good pieces on the team to move forward."