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Birdie-birdie finish locks up Jordan win for ex-Cardinals

Apparently, Ozzie Smith and Vince Coleman have stayed true to their St. Louis Cardinals roots and haven’t forgotten how to work together — even on the golf course.

The duo, who were teammates for six years in St. Louis, finished strong Sunday at Shadow Creek with consecutive birdies to win the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational by four shots over Wayne Gretzky and Ahmad Rashad with a two-day total of 11-under-par 133.

“I won this twice before when it was in the Bahamas, and it’s always special,” said Coleman, a standout outfielder who led the National League in stolen bases for six consecutive years (1985-90). “But to do it with Ozzie, one of my mentors and close friends, that really makes it special.”

Smith, the Hall of Fame shortstop who played 19 major league seasons, was a 15-time All-Star and won 13 Gold Gloves, said, “I have to thank Michael for letting me play with Vince.”

Jordan, hearing Smith’s comments, yelled back, “It won’t happen again.”

The tournament, in its 12th year, was wrapping up a three-year deal with Shadow Creek. And the big news Sunday was that Jordan’s event will be back at Shadow Creek in 2014.

“We’d like to keep this thing rolling here and continue to support all the charities,” said Jordan, who was playing with football star Dwight Freeney and finished tied for ninth at even-par 144.

This year’s tournament was a two-team race down the stretch, as Smith and Coleman were even with Gretzky and Rashad at 9 under heading to the par-3 17th. Neither team was ahead by more than a stroke as they jockeyed back and forth throughout the final round.

But Smith managed to make birdie and Team Gretzky bogeyed the hole, creating a two-shot lead headed to the par-5 18th. Once again, Gretzky and Rashad bogeyed, while Coleman this time came through with the birdie to lock up the title.

“We know how to go into a ballgame prepared,” Coleman said. “Ozzie batted second and I batted first, and whenever I got on, we had a sign. So we had the signs working pretty well. When you play 36 holes and you only make two bogeys, that says a lot about the partnership.”

Smith said: “It was great playing with someone you have a lot of confidence in. It was a good combination and it worked.”

Coleman, 51, who spent 13 seasons in the major leagues and played for the Cardinals from 1985-90, is currently working as a player development and baserunning coach for the Quad Cities River Bandits, the Houston Astros’ Class A affiliate in the Midwest League. He said he is excited about working with young players and helping move them up the chain.

“They’ve got some really good players down there, and my only goal is to help them reach their destination,” Coleman said. “Baserunning and stolen bases seem to be obsolete from today’s game, so we’re trying to implement that more and bring it back.”

Smith, 58, who worked with the Cardinals during spring training as a guest instructor, is also involved in golf in St. Louis.

“I’m the president of the PGA Gateway Foundation, and we work with the various charities that benefit from when the PGA Senior is played next month at Bellerive (Country Club in St. Louis),” Smith said. “So I get to play a lot of golf.”

For all their success Sunday, it’s unlikely Coleman and Smith will be together next year.

“I know we’ll be back, but I don’t know if we’ll be together to defend the title,” Coleman said. “Michael’s kinda funny about things like that.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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