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Sports superstars tee off for college scholarships

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The fall season in Washington ushered in its share of charity golf tournaments but none with quite as many Super Bowl and championship rings as the recent 18-hole event hosted by ESPN sports broadcaster Michael Wilbon and CBS football host James Brown at the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg.

Despite the rain, nearly 20 foursomes, each with one sports celeb, played their rounds before dining on chicken and catfish, and bidding on items such as a weekend cruise, wine tasting and teeth whitening.

Through registration fees, donations and the auction, the event raised $180,000 for the District of Columbia College Access Program (DC-CAP), a nonprofit that was created 12 years ago to increase college attendance through counseling and financial aid. More than $24 million in scholarships have been awarded and 3,300 recipients have graduated from college.

“We are privately funded, so an event like this is extremely important for us,” said Argelia Rodriguez, president and chief executive of DC-CAP.

Along with its annual gala, the golf tournament is one of DC-CAP’s largest fundraisers. Still, the economic downturn has slashed the event’s fundraising numbers by more than half.

“These are difficult times to raise money for everything whether the cause is AIDS or education,” said broadcaster Michael Wilbon, who created the annual golf event nine years ago after a request from the charity’s board. “But I’m overwhelmed by the generosity … All these guys are small businesses in themselves.”

He was referring to the big names in the room such as Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, former Washington Redskin and radio host Brian Mitchell, four-time NBA All-Star Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, seven-time NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning and retired Redskin and broadcaster Rick “Doc” Walker.

Business supporters, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Chevron, Comcast and NBC Universal, also teed off.

Boeing executive Leo A. Brooks Jr. was sold when he heard about DC-CAP. Raised in a family of educators, he said he “saw the value of education early on.” He joined the board of DC-CAP three years ago and used his connections with NASA to create a science competition for DC-CAP students.

“That’s what companies need to do,” said Brooks. “We’re not the only ones. There are a lot more businesses that could be involved [with DC-CAP] but the ones that are involved are involved heavily.”

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