Kaylee Olson made the trip from her home in Shingle Springs each year to Golf & Guitars, an annual event that features a charity tournament and concert, at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento.
Olson, who was attending Ponderosa High School at the time, was not in town to play in the celebrity pro-am at the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course.
“I grew up coming to this event as just a concert viewer,” said Olson. “It was fun to see artists that are now huge, kind of start off where I am. It’s just really inspiring.
“Now I get to participate. So it means a lot, that I get to be here.”
Olson, who now makes her home in Nashville, was one of many celebrities – a combination of country music artists and songwriters – to take part in the 13th annual Golf & Guitars, October 18 and 19.
The concert stage was set up at the No. 17 tee of the MacKenzie course, with close to 3,000 fans in attendance. The Children’s Charity Concert concluded the two-day event.
“It’s really cool to be here years later,” said Olson, a 2011 Ponderosa High graduate.
Olson and her husband, Luke Olson, performed at the singer/songwriter showcase on October 18.
“A lot of the songwriters that are there I look up to. They’re great writers, great people,” said Olson.
She returned to Haggin Oaks the next day to play in the golf event, which had a field of 36 teams, 144 players. Olson said she is not a golfer, but that she was having a lot of fun, getting out and supporting her team and the tournament, which also had a celebrity with each group.
“I’m glad to be here. I’m having a good time – that’s all that matters,” she said.
“Everyone here is so kind, just so positive to be around. We’re all doing it for a good cause.”
The popular event has generated over $1.5 million in the 13 years, with Morton Golf Foundation distributing funds to high school seniors in the area for college scholarships, PGA Hope, and California Eagles, the foundation’s Special Olympics program. There are additional charities as well.
“What’s been fun is that a lot of these artists now come back year after year after year, because they get to see the mission,” said Ken Morton, Jr., Event Manager for Golf & Guitars Children’s Charity Pro-Am and Music Festival, a member of the ownership team at Morton Golf LLC, and a board member of the Morton Golf Foundation.
“At (the October 18) singer/songwriter showcase that we did, we had all of our scholarship winners come up on stage and get big, oversized checks. We gave out $40,000 worth of scholarships. We have two artists select Morton Golf Foundation as their charity of choice, because, again, they see it in action and get to see the good work that we’re doing.”
Golf & Guitars: celebrity pro-am golf tournament, concert
Golf & Guitars, according to www.mortongolfsales.com, is a celebrity pro-am golf tournament and concert featuring nationally recognized & major label country music artists that raises money for key children’s charities in Sacramento.
According to www.mortongolfsales.com:
“Each golfer in the tournament gets to play with one of the celebrities and then gets a seat next to the stage where these artists put on a tremendous concert underneath the beautiful golf course sky. The hottest acts in country music, the up-and-coming artists you’ll soon see topping the charts and some of Nashville’s very best songwriters are all donating their time to help raise funds for children’s charities during the music festival. Much of the funds will go to the Morton Golf Foundation with the balance being paid out via a tournament purse to the artist’s children’s charity of choice.”
One-hundred percent of the net funds are donated to charity, according to www.mortongolfsales.com.
The mission of the Morton Golf Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity, according to www.mortongolfsales.com, “is to provide funding to 17 different local charities and programs that provide exercise in a healthy outdoor environment, to create a recreational environment that builds lasting personal development and that seamlessly introduces life’s core values of the great game of golf to the youth, disabled and underserved communities in the Sacramento region. Over $1 million has been raised in the event’s history.”
Olson was joined by other artists, many of whom are from Nashville.
The celebrity list included Lainey Wilson, Jason Michael Carroll, Megan Conner, Austin Jenckes, Ryan Hernandez, Johnny Bulford, Erin Enderlin, Casey James, Art Padilla, Griffen Palmer, Chad Bushnell, Chris Roberts, Carmichael Dave, Neil Morgan, Brian White, Steven Mendiola, Benjamin Cordonero, Madison Kozak, Elvie Shane, Eric Gunderson, Eric Anderson, Travis Simas, Andrea Young, Heidi Raye, Craig Wayne Boyd, Walker Hayes, Adam Wakefield, Chris Nyhus, Priscilla Block, Luke Olson, Stephen Barker Liles, Jameson Rodgers, Mae Estes, and Ashley Gearing.
“Growing up in the area, you hear about Golf & Guitars,” said Padilla, who is from Sacramento. “And now I get to play golf and play guitar in the festivities, so it’s a great thing.”
Golf & Guitars also benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville.
Golf & Guitars is expected to generate over $120,000 from the two days. Morton Golf Foundation has awarded over $300,000 in college scholarships in the 13 years of hosting the event.
As it has shown this year and all through the years, Golf & Guitars has proven to be very, very popular and successful.
“Golf is such a charity-centric sport and country music really is, too. And from that aspect, they’re really, really compatible,” said Morton, Vice President of Retail & Marketing for Morton Golf LLC.
“We have 35 country music artists that came in. About 12 to 13 of them are singer-songwriters that write for other artists. And then the balance is major label country music acts. It’s just a really good time to raise money for a good cause.”
A day on the golf course with celebrities
Like Olson, Art Padilla is also from the area, having graduated in 1999 from El Camino High in Sacramento.
It was Padilla’s first time playing golf.
“Today it was my first swing ever,” said Padilla.
He was asked about his first swing of the day.
“It felt like I had absolutely no clue what was going on. But it sounded nice, and I appreciate it,” he said.
“We’re playing as a team because I certainly need the team. It’s a blast, having a good time meeting new people. We’re helping raise money, and that’s always a good thing, with it going to good causes. That just makes it even a better time, knowing you’re contributing.”
Padilla is based in Nashville and plays guitar in the Cripple Creek Band.
Erin Enderlin is also new to the game. She enjoyed the two days in Sacramento.
“I love it. It’s really fun, getting to meet a lot of great folks, play some golf, play some music. What else do you need?” Enderlin said. “I’m doing pretty good, I think. I’ve got that ‘beginner’s luck’ still going strong for me.
“I love being out here. Just having fun and raising money for a good cause.”
Chad Bushnell is from the Sacramento Valley and Northern California, having graduated from Red Bluff High and now making his home in Anderson. He is a recording artist based in Nashville.
“I go to Nashville probably four or five times a year. I write and perform with a lot of these guys that are here,” he said. “It’s amazing. I’ve learned a lot from these guys, getting to hang out with some of the Nashville guys. It’s a great experience.”
Working on his golf game is a goal that Bushnell has set for himself.
“We’re having fun today. It’s great. It’s a blast,” he said.
He is also looking forward to going to Nashville and working – writing songs and recording.
Casey James enjoyed everything about Golf & Guitars – the golf, the course, being on a team, helping out.
“This is what it’s all about – giving back. It’s not a tough thing to do. We’re on a beautiful golf course and the weather couldn’t be better. I’m hanging out with amazing folks. Made some friends on the course. I’ve hit a few good shots, even though I’m not a golfer. It’s been great just meeting folks and signing autographs,” said James.
“I just feel blessed and lucky to be here. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
It was James’ first time to be at Golf & Guitars. James, who is from Nashville, said he hopes to be here again.
James, a singer, and guitarist said his life has been a wild whirlwind.
“It’s all a blessing,” he said. “To think that I just followed my heart, to do something that I love and now here I am, what an amazing blessing. I wish everyone’s lives could be that that way – find something that you like doing and then just commit yourself to it.”
It was also Lainey Wilson’s first appearance at Golf & Guitars.
“Hopefully it won’t be my last. I’ve just had so much fun. Everybody has welcomed me with open arms,” said Wilson.
Wilson, who has been in Nashville for the last 10 years, learned to play guitar at 11 years old.
“I always say that I would have considered myself a songwriter before an artist,” she said. “I love it. I eat, sleep and breathe it. When you’re from a completely different part of the world, it’s really cool to be able to move to a place where everybody just kind of gets you. We’re all on the same page. We’re all trying to create. I have just learned so much from everybody.”
Jason Michael Carroll played with military veterans in the pro-am. As a United States Marine Corps veteran himself, he is a big supporter of PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere). It’s the flagship military program of PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America, according to www.pgareach.org. PGA HOPE introduces golf to veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being, according to www.pgareach.org.
PGA HOPE is a program that introduces the game of golf through a developmental 6-8 week curriculum, taught by PGA Professionals trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency. All programs are funded by PGA REACH and supplemented by PGA Section Foundations, so the cost of programming is free to all veterans, according to www.pgareach.org.
“This is awesome, playing with an awesome group of veterans,” said Carroll. “We owe them so much more than what our country does for them. So to be able to come out and do something … to bring that camaraderie that we were all so used to in the military, that we lose when we get out, it’s pretty awesome.
“I’m fortunate because I get to play with some amazing veterans and show them how grateful I am for what they’ve done for us. It’s been awesome to be able to be a part of this and to come back and be a part of their lives, be a part of PGA HOPE, and show our appreciation.”
Carroll, who is from Raleigh, North Carolina, has been to Golf & Guitars all but one year.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor, and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.