The turnout Saturday at Camp Lejeune for the Marine Corps Celebrity Invitation golf tournament was a little thin, but those spectators who showed were pleased with the weather - and the access.
Bill and Linda Howard drove from New Bern to watch big wigs like former Vice President Dan Quayle and baseball hall-of-famer Johnny Bench take to the links. Proceeds from the tournament, which resumes this morning at 8, benefit Project Care and the Fallen Patriot Fund.
"This is for the families of military personnel," Linda said. "That's what drew us down here. The cause is super."
They arrived early and bought their tickets at the gate. The rest was simple.
"We were prepared for delays for security, but it was easy getting on base," Linda said.
Many of the celebrities were wearing brown desert digital camouflage caps that set them apart from the crowd. The Howards followed around Quayle and Bench for a few holes.
"It's nice for these people to take part in such an event," Linda said. "They certainly can golf, (and) the weather has been perfect. There were no lines for the bathrooms or refreshments. They were definitely prepared for the crowds."
Linda's good friend Wanda Meyer of West Union, Iowa was the fraternity-house mother for Quayle when he was in college at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., so the experience was something particularly memorable.
"I'm going to tell her that I shook hands with him, and that he remembers her fondly," Linda said. "She's still a fan of Dan's. She said he was a nice young man, and he still sends her Christmas cards."
Bill, an avid sports enthusiast and golfer, took the day off from golfing to see the tournament and the high level of play.
"I followed Johnny Bench around," Bill said. "He's a very personal man and fun to be around. He's very accessible. I watched him when he played baseball, and he still has the intensity. He wants to win."
Bench and Quayle were in the same foursome, so Bill was in heaven as he walked the entire back nine and followed their group from the 10th to the 14th hole.
But it was at the 17th hole that Bill was in the right place at the right time when hockey star Darren Veitch scored a hole-in-one right before his eyes.
"They couldn't see it from the tee, so when I started cheering they didn't know what happened," Bill said. "I went to shake his hand - he was a big hockey star - and he was so excited that he almost broke it. He said that it was his third hole-in-one."
Michael Haynes from Tucson, Ariz. was visiting the area and found the tournament to be a perfect father-son outing to spend with his 4-year-old, Dayton.
"This was going on, and we've been hanging out all week," Michael said.
Dayton was fidgeting a little and playing with his Nerf football, but he grasped the concept of being quiet while players approached the green.
Quayle said hello to Dayton as the young fan pointed out where his ball was - something that the younger sportsman will likely remember when he is older.
Dayton could relate to those on putting on the green because he plays "Gator Golf" with little alligators that scarf up a child's putt.
"You get it in their mouth and then they shoot it out and you try to hit it again," Dayton said proudly.
Nearby, Lance Cpl. Dave Sadler, 24, a postal clerk from Bourbonnais, Ill. assigned to 2nd Force Service Support Group was all about getting autographs.
Armed with a black Sharpie from the local military exchange, a tournament T-shirt and a white Paradise Point golf cap, Sadler looked like a walking billboard.
"I have all but three of them on the cap and about 10 on the shirt," said Sadler as he showed his prized possessions that didn't have much room left for other signatures.
A Chicago fan, he was especially proud of the autographs from former football star Jim McMahon and retired baseball slugger Mickey Tettleton.
"Growing up, Mickey was the big guy on all the video games," Sadler said. "He has a Tiger Woods-like drive."
Sadler showed his Midwestern farmboy-like smile as he gingerly spun the white cap covered with autographs. He plans to keep it under glass for protection.
"There's no reason why people shouldn't come out here," Sadler said, noting that the event is free to active-duty military personnel. "The money is going back into the economy, and you don't even have to walk the course. Every celebrity will walk right up next to you."