Montoya, Waltrip Go Clubbing: Homestead-Miami Celebrity Golf Classic Set for Nov. 14

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Just prior to last year's inaugural Homestead-Miami Speedway Celebrity Golf Classic—played in conjunction with the star-studded Ford Championship Weekend—NFL Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor was approached by a gentleman with a Spanish accent seeking an autograph.

Taylor obliged the complimentary and appreciative gentleman before returning to his own paperwork in registering for the celebrity tournament. Just a few minutes later—before the all-world linebacker had completed his forms—the autograph seeker returned to the sign-in area and was greeted by tournament director Nick Nicolosi.

"Are you registering as an amateur?" Nicolosi asked. The gentleman replied: "No, I think I'm actually supposed to play as one of the celebrities."

And with that, Indy 500-winner-turned-NASCAR-rookie-driver Juan Pablo Montoya began filling out his own celebrity registration forms.

This is just one of many tales Nicolosi can share from nearly a quarter century of directing charitable celebrity tournaments. He'll again be at the helm for this year's Homestead-Miami Speedway Celebrity Golf Classic, to be held Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa—the first of many community programs the Speedway will host in the days leading up to Ford Championship Weekend.

Celebrities scheduled to play in this year's tournament include Miami-resident Montoya, NASCAR's points-leading rookie and winner of the 2000 Indy 500; and NASCAR Driver of the Decade (1980s) Darrell Waltrip, three-time Cup champion and current NASCAR TV analyst. More golfers from all walks of sports and fame will be announced in the coming weeks.

Celebrity participants in last year's inaugural event included two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip; former NASCAR Premier Series-champion Rusty Wallace (Top 10 all-time in NASCAR career victories and earnings); NASCAR driver Jaime McMurray (2007 Pepsi 400 winner); NFL Hall of Famer/1972 Dolphin Larry Little; Miami Hurricane/NFL Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks; NFL Hall of Famer Taylor; two-time World Series-champion Florida Marlin Jeff Conine; NCAA basketball legend Bobby Hurley; and Jenna Edwards, Miss Florida USA 2007.

And yet, even with that roster, second-year tournament director Nicolosi remains one of the more interesting and engaging personalities on a course full of them. Name the game, and he can recall a story involving some of the most memorable athletes in American sport. Consider his professional-sporting resume:

  • Football: Nicolosi has put on the NFL's Super Bowl Golf Classic each of the past 23 years, in the process working with virtually every NFL Hall of Fame player and coach who ever has picked up a golf club.

  • Baseball: Nicolosi was affiliated with the Yankees from 1976-80 in the role of Yankee Greats golf tournament director, becoming a confidante of legendary skipper Billy Martin, and a Florida Keys fishing cohort of Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio.

  • Motorsports: Nicolosi used to race midget cars on NASCAR circuits in the Northeast in the late '50s, and developed friendships with early drivers Fireball Roberts, Tiny Lund and Lee Petty. He was on the infield to witness Mario Andretti's first race at Teaneck Armory in New Jersey in 1959, and once hit 90 mph on the speedometer of a custom golf cart driven by Indy 500 winner Tom Sneva.

    Because motorsports always has held a special place in Nicolosi's heart, when Homestead-Miami Speedway President Curtis Gray approached him about putting on the Speedway's inaugural celebrity golf tournament last year, Nicolosi didn't hesitate.

    "Being asked to host the track's tournament became a dream come true for me—I jumped at the opportunity," he said. "With the popularity of NASCAR nowadays, it was a perfect fit."

    Recalled Gray: "When I found out who [Nicolosi] was, I knew he would be a great asset in helping us host our first Ford Championship

    Weekend golf tournament. I was surprised to find out that even after putting on the Super Bowl golf classics for 20-plus years, he's still a NASCAR guy at heart."

    Shortly after his conversation with Gray, Nicolosi centered in on the perfect course host, booking Doral's famous "Blue Monster"—a 2007 World Golf Championship venue and regular stop on the PGA tour.

    "The 'Blue Monster' is probably one of the five most famous courses in the United States," Nicolosi said. "It was the natural place to host the tournament."

    …As it will again this November. And last year's success has brought high hopes for 2007 and beyond.

    "Like most things Curtis is involved with, the Homestead-Miami golf tournament became very successful very quickly," Nicolosi said. "At this rate, we probably stand to get 300 or more golfers in the next two to three years."

    Last year's event—the first Nicolosi had put on in conjunction with a NASCAR race weekend—raised approximately $40,000 for the NASCAR Foundation, The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis (the "Miami Project") and the Betty Jane France "Speediatrics" pediatric unit at Homestead Hospital. Charitable organizations WAM (Women's Auxiliary of Motorsports) and Montoya's "Formula Smiles" join this year's docket of beneficiaries.

    "The Classic is a great time for both the celebrities and the amateurs, but it's really all about the money we raise for these charities," said Gray. "Those who play in the tournament are doing so much more than sinking putts and slicing drives—they're supporting some great causes."

    Team sponsorships and individual spots are still available for The Homestead-Miami Speedway Celebrity Golf Classic. Participants receive a gift bag and souvenir plaque featuring team photograph with celebrity captain. Lunch is served at Doral's Champions Pavilion prior to golf, and an awards party/memorabilia auction will follow (prizes to Top 3 teams).

    For more information or to obtain invitations for the Homestead-Miami Speedway Celebrity Golf Classic, please contact Tournament Director Nick Nicolosi at (201) 489-0049 or n.nicolosi@verizon.net. For information and tickets on all Homestead-Miami Speedway events—including Ford Championship Weekend, group sales and private track rental—please visit www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com or call (866) 409-RACE.

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