Booker 'T's' it up for charity

Booker 'T's' it up for charity

SmackDown announcer and former six-time World Champion Booker T traded in his ring boots for golf shoes Wednesday when he competed in the 2012 Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am Golf Tournament. The celebrity charity tournament was held at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., as part of the lead-up to the Travelers Championship PGA Tour event. ( PHOTOS)

All money raised from the tournament will be donated to 120 partner charities throughout Connecticut. Since its inception, the Travelers Championship has raised more than $30 million for the community.

There were two major stories heading into the day’s action; the first being the 120 Connecticut partner charities that will benefit from all money raised throughout the tournament, and the other being the sweltering heat. It was apparent from the first tee that summer had indeed arrived on the East Coast, with temperatures reaching in excess of 95 degrees.

As always, though, Booker T kept his cool. In between playing a solid round of golf, he took time at every hole to chat with WWE Universe members who made the trip to Cromwell to check out the former champion’s game. There were so many passionate WWE fans at the course, in fact, that Booker told he couldn’t remember the last time he signed so many autographs.

SmackDown’s announcer extraordinaire made it his goal to bring smiles to faces all day, starting with a group of youngsters from Paul Newman’s The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, an organization that helps children by following the simple-yet-key philosophy that kids should have fun. Booker met with the children just before heading out to the first tee, and it wasn’t just the group of The Hole in the Wall Camp members that had fun on this day.

"When I stop making kids smile, I’m not doing the right thing," a smiling Booker told "I just really appreciate the love they give to me and, in turn, they feel the love coming back at them."

Because it’s a Pro-Am tournament, the atmosphere of the event was loose and fun despite the fact that there were some very serious golfers participating in the day’s festivities, as evidenced by the all-star foursome that Booker T was part of.

Each group of golfers consisted of three amateur players and one PGA Tour Professional. Booker brushed shoulders with other prominent Connecticut celebrities, playing with Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Michael Bolton, University of Connecticut women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma and PGA Tour Pro George McNeill, who recently racked up a victory at the 2012 Puerto Rico Open.

Though all of the golfers played for charity, the event was especially important to Bolton, whose charitable foundation has a long history with Travelers. Founded in 1993, Michael Bolton Charities focuses on helping at-risk women and children.

Other celebrities to hit the links at the Pro-Am included actor Bill Murray, 1984 Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie and ESPN’s Chris Berman.

For his part, Booker was certainly one of the event’s main attractions, not only playing professional-caliber golf, but also making sure to entertain the crowds of people who braved the sweltering heat.

Andy Bessette, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Travelers, was glad to have Booker at the event. "WWE plays a huge role with us," Bessette said. "This year, we had Booker T and he brought out a different kind of crowd — there were young kids that all know [the Superstars]."

Booker, who picked up his golfing habit from former WWE Champion JBL, was hot from the first tee, lighting up the driving range while bringing his trademark charisma to the fans stationed at every hole. The former champion, looking at the 6th hole, made a bold prediction before stepping up to the tee: that he would need onlythreestrokes to complete the Par-5 hole and sink an Eagle. Booker was as good as his word, indeed Eagling that hole, then birdying another to contribute to his team’s overall 9-under-par performance.

Following the front nine, McNeill offered a sit-rep on Booker’s performance. "Booker’s playing great today," McNeill said. "He’s hit every fairway, he’s hit most of the greens, and we’re having a good time." With Booker standing right there, though, the pro took a jestful jab, adding, "We just need to get him to make a couple of putts."

During that same mid-point, Booker described himself as "a train going downhill, just picking up steam," and he wasn’t far off.  The back nine went just as well; even as the outside temperature continued to rise, Booker’s group kept their score low, staying competitive with the top of the field.

If shooting 9 under par wasn’t enough, perhaps the highlight of the day occurred just after Booker and his compadres completed play on the 18th hole. While doing interviews with major media outlets, Bolton told he enjoyed playing with Booker.

"This guy can golf," the Grammy winner said with a smile. Unbeknownst to Bolton, however, Booker was creeping up behind him to tell the singer that, while he may be able to golf, what he really wants to do is learn how to sing. At that moment, the Grammy winner and the former champion belted out a verse of a slightly altered version of Bolton’s hit song, "When a Man Loves a Woman," drawing a round of applause from the entire crowd.

Booker came ready to learn from the experienced players in his foursome, and the advice he received throughout the day obviously paid off. "I had some good teachers," he said. "I’d heard about Michael Bolton’s golf game for so long, and I was afraid to come out because I just knew he was going to blow me out of the water. But I actually kept up with him on a few holes."

Bolton countered Booker’s comments, quickly pointing out that "[Booker] was on the fairway all day! We were trying to keep up with him!"

Andy Bessette summed things up best, however, as he excitedly told, "Booker played great! Man, that guy can hit the ball. I guess being a WWE Superstar translates to golf somehow!"

Bessette added, "Booker played really well, and the crowd loved him."

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