George Lopez has new golf tournament

Here is a story that ran in today’s edition of the Daily News on George Lopez’s new golf tournament to benefit kidney disease.

Comedian George Lopez launches charity golf tournament in Toluca Lake
By Jill Painter, Staff Writer
George Lopez has his own comedy show and DVDs. He has a charitable foundation and until recently, had his own television show. And now, the kid who grew up hitting lemons in his grandmother’s Valley back yard because he couldn’t afford golf balls, has his own golf tournament.

Lopez recently launched the National Kidney Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic. The first tournament is Monday at Lakeside Golf Club – where he’s a member – in Toluca Lake. It’s his first crack at running his own golf tournament, and as of last week, the even was sold out.

Golf changed Lopez’s life, and he hopes he can use golf to change someone else’s life.

“People do yoga and read, which is foreign to me, and Sudoku,” Lopez said in a recent phone interview. “Golf is just a wonderful place to get out and clear your head. You meet very few bad people on the golf course. It changed the direction of my life. It rewired me. I had a lot of issues. I didn’t have family members to guide me through. All those clubs in the bag were like my family members. They’re unforgiving and can make you feel great. I found my balance in golf.”

Lopez found it was easy to have fun on a golf course, too.

He shuns boxed lunches for barbecues and margaritas (his tournament falls on Cinco de Mayo), and he’ll have a band, the Boogie Nights, perform. Lopez is extremely charitable with his time and doesn’t just rub elbows with his celebrity friends. Regular folks could be in store for a

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hug, handshake, photo, joke or all of the above.
Lopez received good preparation in the golf tournament business as host of the Bob Hope Classic the past two years. His contract wasn’t renewed.

Lopez is one of the funniest comedians around, but this tournament is no joke.

He’s using golf to try to help find a cure for kidney disease, something he knows all too well.

In 2005, Lopez received a kidney transplant from his wife, Ann.

After a successful operation, he and Ann became the national spokespeople for the National Kidney Foundation. When people approach him now, it’s not always about his standup routine.

“I run into people all the time who’ve either been tested or found out that someone was a match and agreed to be a donor because of what we’ve done,” Lopez said. “The biggest thing I’m concentrating on is more live donors. I don’t know that my quality of life would be the same if it wasn’t for Ann. I don’t think it would be good.”

His tournament benefits several organizations that help fund kidney disease research and provide fun for those suffering from it.

Lopez earmarked the Children Teen Camping Program, which allows children and teens who are battling kidney disease to attend a weeklong camp, as one of the tournament’s charities.

He loves helping children, probably because he had such a rough childhood. His father wasn’t involved in his life, and he was raised by his grandmother in Mission Hills.

“When I was a kid, nobody ever came up to me and told me I could be anything other than a laborer,” Lopez said. “When I was at San Fernando Middle School, they told us we should be carpenters.

“I remember one guy came in with jeans and a Baltimore Orioles jersey. He was an African-American and he was playing Double-A. I’d never seen a professional jersey. He came and said we should stay in school and be true to ourselves and dream we could be anything we wanted to be. I’ve never forgotten that somebody did that.”

Lopez dreamed about having his own tournament, and it was seemingly simple once he decided to make it a reality.

“Everyone has a tournament – Ray (Romano), Sam(uel L. Jackson) – and I’ve played in a lot of celebrity tournaments,” Lopez said. “When my wife and I started the National Kidney Foundation, we had a huge dinner the last two years. I wanted something of my own.”

Lopez corralled friends, including Jackson, Cheech Marin and Oscar De La Hoya, to golf and to help give children with kidney disease a little hope or better treatment. Jackson has a niece who had a kidney transplant.

Lopez, who co-chairs the event with philanthropist Stewart Rahr, will have fun, too. He’s not going to shave his goatee like he did on live television during the Bob Hope Classic in January, but he’s going to put his stamp on the event.

He believes he knows a thing or two about running a good tournament: Give people what they want, make them laugh and hope they leave with a smile on their face.

Sounds like the goal of one of his comedy shows.

Lopez said he felt he met those goals at the Bob Hope, but tournament organizers obviously felt otherwise. The press release had one of those we’re-moving-in-a-different direction vibes.

When he was announced as the host two years ago, organizers hailed his energy and ability to attract celebrities. He was replaced by Arnold Palmer for next year’s 50th anniversary event.

“Peter Jacobsen said they needed a host and told me I should ask them about it,” Lopez said. “I became the host, and it wasn’t easy. I was very happy with the first year and thought last year was great.

“It was better. But I wish them the best. I wouldn’t change a thing – except maybe shaving on the 18th. That took a long time to grow back.”

Lopez said he’s not sure if he’ll play in the tournament next year because he might be busy with his comedy show.

Plus, he plays in about 15 golf events every year and even joked he plays more than Tiger Woods. He might.

“Regardless of what happened at the Hope or any golf tournament, I love golf and nothing can take away my love for the game,” Lopez said.

When your introduction to the game is hitting lemons in the back yard, it only gets better from there.

He has his own tournament that helps others to boot.

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About Jill Painter

Jill Painter is a sports columnist for the Los Angeles News Group, covering everything from the Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, USC, UCLA, Kings, golf and all human interest stories in sports.