Straight Down has taken up the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease.
And it is using golf to help achieve the goal of finding a cure for this devastating illness.
The 17th annual Straight Down Fall Classic will be played over three days this weekend at the San Luis Obispo Country Club with 25 percent of the entry fees donated to the cause.
The event teed off Thursday with a pro-am — a PGA professional and four local golfers play one round.
Today and Saturday, the 36-hole tournament is played. It pairs a PGA professional with a local amateur golfer in a four-ball stroke-play match.
“This is low gross only,” said tournament spokesman Jon Hastings. “There are no handicaps, no net category.”
Like any professional tournament, the winner gets cash — $25,000 for the pro champion and $2,500 for his amateur partner.
But the real goal is to raise money to help find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The disease’s formal name is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS.
It attacks the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.
It is almost always fatal.
Straight Down, the clothing and accessory company that’s based on Clarion Court in San Luis Obispo, has a long history of supporting charitable causes.
“Years ago, (Cal Poly golf coach) Scott Cartwright and I were playing in a similar event in Fresno,” said Straight Down President Mike Rowley. “I said ‘why don’t we do something like that back home’, so we went to the country club board and they approved it and the Straight Down Fall Classic was born.”
The company got involved with the battle against ALS after a former Straight Down champion was diagnosed with the disease several years ago.
“We started out donating money to cancer research,” said Rowley. “But that changed when Don Woodward was diagnosed with ALS.”
Woodward, the owner of SLO’s Sunset Honda, was diagnosed with ALS in October of 2008. He played in his final Straight Down Fall Classic that November teaming with PGA pro Ricky Barnes. He was also a former Straight Down champion, teaming with PGA pro Edward Loar to win the 2006 Classic..
“Don inspired all who watched him that weekend with his courage,” said Hastings.
ALS took his life in 2010 at the age of 46. The money raised is donated in Woodward’s name.
“We are trying to get the message about ALS out to the whole country,” said Rowley. “The disease took the life of Martha Ferdandez last year. She was another great friend of the Straight Down family.”
The tournament is open to the public and features such well-known PGA professionals as Loren Roberts, Fred Couples, Tom Lehman, Scott Simpson, Gary McCord, John Jacobs, Dan Forsman, Paul Stankowski and Roger Tambellini.
“There are three former major winners in the field — Couples (1992 Masters), Simpson (1987 U.S. Open) and Tom Lehman (1996 British Open),” said Hastings.
Lehman will be playing with his 17-year old son Tom, Roberts is partnering with Justin Hendrix while Couples will be playing with Brad Shaw.
Travis Bertone, an up-and-coming pro from the Central Coast who is currently playing on the wem.com tour, will be on the course.
Retired pro and current Golf Channel commentator Brandel Chamblee will be among the notables.
Poly’s Cartwright is in the field as is SLO Country Club PGA pro Rick Ventura.
The defending champions are Scott Heyn and Corby Segal (64-66-130). They defeated Couples and Shaw in a one-hole playoff last year.
The tournament is presented by Firestione Grill and Sunset Honda and tees off Friday morning at 8 a.m. It continues Saturday and Sunday.
“I’m excited about the weekend,” said Rowley. “We’re going to have good weather, good people, all working for a great cause.”