Hall of Fame Cardinals safety Larry Wilson practices his tee shot during Monday's alumni golf tournament presented by Albertson's.
To appreciate the importance and magnitude of the Cardinals' Alumni Weekend, just listen to former Cardinal safety Larry Wilson, who spent 44 seasons with the Cardinals as a player (1960-72) and executive (1973-2003) before his retirement.
"This has been one of the greatest weekends I've had since I've been associated with the Cardinals," said Wilson, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "To have so many former players come here not just from St. Louis but from all over the country, to see the new stadium, see the team win yesterday, it's been a fantastic weekend. I've had so many people come up to me and say what a great time they've had. And I've had a great time too. Overall it was just simply amazing."
Wilson was one of 250 who participated in Monday's Cardinals Charities NFL Alumni Celebrity Golf Challenge at Whirlwind Golf Club. The tournament was presented by Albertson's and benefitted the NFL YET Academy, the Arizona Cardinals Preparatory Academy, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
It dually served as the closing event of the Cardinals Alumni Weekend which began with a dinner on Friday and extended through the Cardinals' thrilling 27-21 win over Cleveland Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Cardinals President Michael Bidwill underscored the impact of laying the groundwork for a thriving alumni program and it benefits.
"I think the importance of this Alumni Weekend is about establishing tradition and how important it is to be a Cardinal, how important all the former players are to the team," Bidwill said. "I believe it's important to keep our former players involved, and have some of the younger alumni meet such players as Larry Wilson, Roger Wehrli, Jim Hart, Mel Gray."
That commingling of the old and the new was clearly evident when Bidwill brought two quarterbacks together whose career began over 40 years apart. During pre-game festivities on the field prior to Sunday's game against the Browns, Bidwill introduced Matt Leinart to Jim Hart, whose career with the Cards spanned 18 seasons from 1966-83.
"When Matt realized it was 'the' Jim Hart who wore number 17 and played for the Cardinals, his eyes lit up," Bidwill said. "They had a great talk about what an honor it is to be an NFL quarterback and how important it is to be involved with the team. The main point is that they love this organization and the fact we still embrace them. When you walk around our stadium there's not another NFL team which has paid as much tribute to its history and to the players as we have."
Bernard Wilson, a Cardinal defensive lineman from 1994-98, expressed a feeling shared by many over the weekend.
"You play this game for a long time and you realize when you get out of the game, it's not the game you miss. It's the guys," he said. "You miss the camaraderie with the guys in the locker room. Being around all these guys again, seeing players I hadn't seen in 15-20 years, was wonderful."
Here's the results of Monday's Cardinals Charities NFL Alumni Celebrity Golf Challenge played on both the Cattail and Devil's Claw courses at Whirlwind: First Place-Cox Communications, with former Card wide receiver Rob Moore. Second Place-Insight, with former Card tight end Tim Jorden. Third Place-Budweiser, with former Cardinal center Derek Kennard. Closest to the Pin-Matt Druhe (Cattail) and former Card assistant coach Hank Kuhlmann (Devil's Claw). Longest Drive-Nathan LaDuke and Michelle Tostado (Cattail) and Gary Gartley and Erica Anderson (Devil's Claw).