Drive 4 Life Golf Tourney fitting finale to Victory Motors Cancer Drive | CraigDailyPress.com

Drive 4 Life Golf Tourney fitting finale to Victory Motors Cancer Drive

CRAIG — A storm system that rumbled through Northwest Colorado on Saturday gave way to partly cloudy skies and pleasant temperatures Sunday morning — near perfect weather as dozens of golfers converged on Yampa Valley Golf Course for the second annual Rick Upchurch Drive 4 Life Golf Tournament.

Held in conjunction with the weekend's fifth annual Victory Motors Cancer Drive, Sunday's tournament was — in the words of its namesake, former Denver Broncos wide receiver and return specialist Rick Upchurch — a chance to have fun and reconnect with old friends. But more importantly, the former Broncos standout said, it was an opportunity to raise money to benefit the Moffat County Cancer Society and support people who are all-too-often forgotten.

"Today is just a wonderful day, man — just having a great day," Upchurch said between holes in a round he was playing with Paul Nicholas, Trent White, and Zach White. "We're having a great time out here raising money for the Moffat County Cancer Society."

For Upchurch, the fight against cancer is a personal one; as a young teenager, he lost his grandfather to lung cancer, and in 2011, he was, himself, diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia.

"I was 15 years old and watching my grandfather die from lung cancer, and he was my idol, you know, he was my guide, who I looked up to," Upchurch said. "And so, back then, I said to myself, 'You know, one day, I'm going to be able to do some positive things to help people,' and, you know, that's what we're here for."

This year marks Upchurch's fifth time lending both his fame and voice to the effort to raise funds for the Moffat County Cancer Society.

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"You know, the more we can raise for these families here in Craig, Colorado, and Moffat County, the better, because, once again, you know, a lot of times in these areas, these folks are forgotten," he said. "Nobody thinks about them, nobody understands they're going through difficulties, and it's for us, as former Denver Broncos, to reach out to our communities.

"Remember, man, all the fans used to cheer for us … so it's about us giving back to the communities that really, really supported us as Denver Broncos. But also, the folks up here in Craig, Colorado, are just wonderful people, and the Maneotis family … they're like our family. We've been knowing them forever."

A family affair

Upchurch's mention of Craig's Maneotis family was neither random nor accidental.

The Victory Motors Cancer Drive was created five years ago by the dealership's owners, Steve and Tony Maneotis, as a way to support their sister and fellow business owner Irene Kitzman, following her cancer diagnosis.

This year's event included an autograph session at the dealership on Saturday — featuring Upchurch and fellow former Broncos Le-Lo Lang, Greg Boyd, Ron Egloff, Dave Studdard, Jon Keyworth, Billy Van Heusen, Chris Young and Charlie Adams.

A casino night and silent auction followed at the Quality Inn & Suites Saturday evening, and Kitzman said that event — only in its second year — has shown phenomenal growth in only 12 short months.

"At the casino night, everybody had a blast," she said. "It doubled in size from last year."

She added that the celebrity golf tournament — also added last year — came about partly as a way of honoring Upchurch and his ongoing contributions to Moffat County.

"Last year was when the Drive 4 Life Golf Tournament was added, because we wanted to do something in honor of Rick (Upchurch)," she said. "… Rick and Donna (Upchurch's wife of 20 years) have come up for the past five years, and they've brought Bronco alumni, and we've done things like football camps, cheerleading clinics."

She added that the tournament also serves to "remember somebody we've lost in the past year." Accordingly, this year's tournament was dedicated to the memory of Craig resident David Watson, who died Feb. 28.

And while the event has become something of a "family reunion" for old friends, the main goal has always been — and still remains — to raise money for the county's cancer patients.

In that regard, Kitzman offered some impressive totals.

"I was informed by the Moffat County Cancer Society last night that, in the past four years, we have given … $52,000," she said. "And so, when this two days are done, we're hoping we can make that up to $60,000, at least," she said.

But Kitzman was not content to rest on any laurels. As she watched the golf tournament unfold Sunday, she was already thinking toward the 2019 event.

"The two days are fun, so everybody needs to look forward to next year," she said.