By Steve Virgen
11:51 AM PST, January 22, 2013
There was a special buzz amid the eighth annual Mesa Verde Classic Monday at Mesa Verde Country Club.
Valerie Torelli was mixing tasty drinks at a martini bar at the 17th tee and there were plenty of drinks at other holes, but that's not the type of buzz I'm talking about.
A party atmosphere took over at the golf course, but there was also a sense of community, positivity and hope for the future.
City leaders, businessmen and businesswomen put down their guards for one day to have some golf fun in the sun. They did it all in the name of charity, to raise money for Costa Mesa United, which raises money for local youth sports programs.
Costa Mesa United was the primary force in producing projects like Jim Scott Stadium at Estancia High and the Costa Mesa Aquatics Center at Costa Mesa High.
The organization wants to help with more facilities and improvements. And, fundraisers like the Mesa Verde Classic are needed. The golf event has raised about $1 million throughout its history.
Raising money doesn't need to be serious.
Gordon Bowley and his friends certainly had some fun on Monday.
Bowley, who chaired the fundraiser with Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, wanted to make sure every hole was an event with a Hawaiian/South Pacific theme.
Torelli's specialty drink was a mango martini for the golfers. Play seemed to be delayed at the 17th tee, where there was also an In-N-Out truck nearby.
"Of course it's about raising money for Costa Mesa United but more than that it's a way for the right-wing and left-wing people of Costa Mesa to come together," Torelli said. "It's unifying and a cleansing of the soul. You have that camaraderie. You go to an In-N-Out truck and to a martini bar. You can have a python around your neck or go to [someone in a gorilla suit] scaring you. There are parrots. You can have someone roll you a cigar … It's a fun day. For one day, everybody lets everything down."
Torelli helped with creating the style for each hole. Bowley smiled at the thought of each one. He was also at the 17th tee when I drove by with my helpful escorts, Tom Johnson and William Lobdell.
Bowley thanked the community for such great support. He said the tournament alone could bring in around $80,000 and there is more money that is donated through other events that tie in with the golf tournament.
Bowley introduced me to David Schweitzer, a donor who was honored with other special people Monday night at the closing dinner.
Bowley, Schweitzer, along with Ryan Knapp and Erin Nelvedt won the tournament (129).
Schweitzer, without solicitation, donated $125,000 to Costa Mesa United. He also transferred profitable stocks to help the program.
Recently he bought a new van for about $35,000 for the Estancia golf teams.
"We lived here for almost 50 years," said Schweitzer, who had three children grow up in Costa Mesa. "It's a good place to give back … This is the for the community. It makes Costa Mesa better."
Schweitzer ate a burger and a had a drink at the 17th tee. He was one of several who had a good time at the tournament.
In the distance a man banged gently on a metal drum to create calypso tunes. On another side of the course, the band Loose Change, delivered cover songs ranging from Rick James to Led Zeppelin. There was also a mechanical surfing machine.
At one hole, I saw Gary Monahan serving drinks. At the tee for hole No. 2, representatives from Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop were serving sangria. Two gentlemen from a cigar shop, Mursuli, offered to roll a cigar.
Ben Veling, 19, put on his gorilla suit to scare people. But I heard he was flirting with some hula girls and sometimes dancing.
There were other restaurants there, plenty of food and drinks.
"This is the 6,000-calorie round of golf," Jim Righeimer said.
The Costa Mesa Mayor said he had a great time at the golf tournament, but it didn't look like he played. He was definitely there to support the event.
"I like the fact that the whole community gets together; everyone is working for one cause," he said. "They are raising money for the youth."
Righeimer said new facilities at Costa Mesa schools help the community grow and can build strength in the athletic programs.
Tom Hatch, the Costa Mesa CEO, concurred. His daughter, Courtney, attends Costa Mesa High, where she is a cheerleader and is involved with the drama program and Associated Student Body.
"I'm a big Costa Mesa High School guy," Hatch said. "My heart and soul is at Costa Mesa High School. But the collaboration with Estancia is good, competitive fun. Working together, we're uplifting those schools. There's a good buzz and a good feeling of accomplishment. We can point to all the good things that are happening in those schools and you can credit programs like Costa Mesa United."