Virgen's View: Mesa Verde Classic unites the city

There was a special buzz amid the eighth annual Mesa Verde Classic Monday at Mesa Verde Country Club.

Realtor Valerie Torelli mixed tasty drinks at a martini bar at the 17th tee, while plenty of drinks were available 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 and business people put down their guards for one day to have some golf fun in the sun. They did it all in the name of charity, raising money for Costa Mesa United.

Mesa United, with its focus on youth sports programs, was the primary force in producing projects like Jim Scott Stadium at Estancia High School and the Costa Mesa Aquatics Center at Costa Mesa High School.

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, 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, but that wasn't the only reason for the delay at the 17th tee. An In-N-Out truck parked 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, former Daily Pilot Publisher Tom Johnson and former Pilot editor and current city spokesman Bill Lobdell.

Bowley thanked the community for such great support. He said the tournament alone could bring in about $80,000, with more coming from other events tied to the golf tournament.

Bowley introduced me to David Schweitzer, a donor who was honored with other special people at the closing dinner.

Bowley, Schweitzer, Ryan Knapp and Erich Melvedt 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.

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 Councilman Gary Monahan serving drinks. At the tee for hole No. 2, representatives from Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop served sangria. Two gentlemen from a cigar shop, Mursuli, offered to roll a cigar.

Ben Veling, 19, may have put on his gorilla suit to scare people, but I heard he also was flirting with some hula girls and sometimes dancing.

Restaurants offered plenty of food and drinks.

"This is the 6,000-calorie round of golf," Mayor Jim Righeimer said.

He said he had a great time, but it didn't look like he played.

"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.

City CEO Tom Hatch concurred. His daughter, Courtney, attends Mesa, 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."

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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