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Mike Ditka still loves to play golf despite eroding skills

Former Chicago Bears coach and player Mike Ditka still loves golf, even though the former scratch golfer left low scores behind long ago.

Despite his eroding skills, the Pro Football Hall of Fame member plays as much as possible, sometimes teeing it up alone just to appreciate the peacefulness of the course.

“I really, really enjoy the game,” Ditka said recently during a phone conversation between rounds. “My friend Tony got me involved a long time ago, and the more I played, the more I liked it. And the more I liked it, the more I played. I got to the point where I was pretty good, but now I just love the game. I don’t worry about playing well anymore, and I don’t have any ego about it.”

Ditka, 76, and several other NFL legends are scheduled to be in Las Vegas on June 3 and 4 for the annual Gridiron Greats Hall of Fame Weekend. The awards dinner at the Silverton and golf tournament at Rio Secco Golf Club raise money and awareness for the Gridiron Greats assistance fund. Both events are open to the public, and ticket information is available at GridironGreats.org.

The organization’s efforts have received heightened exposure lately because of the ongoing concerns about concussions in the NFL and how they impact players’ lives. Ditka has watched firsthand as some of his best friends suffered later in life because of the punishment they took playing the game.

“A lot of my teammates are gone now,” he said. “They died with dementia, and many were in very bad shape. All we’re trying to do is make the lives of former players better. A lot of guys have fallen through the cracks, and the league could have done a better job supporting former players who had injuries.”

Despite the potential of lasting damage, Ditka said he still thinks the risk of playing football is worth the reward.

“Life is about choices,” he said. “Football is a contact sport, but it is a great sport. If you have the opportunity to play the game and you don’t, you’re cheating yourself.”

GOLF SHOW THIS WEEKEND

Golf Fest Vegas returns to the TaylorMade Golf Experience, located across from Town Square, on Friday and Saturday. The event features demos with major club manufacturers, including TaylorMade, Callaway, Nike, Mizuno and others plus, daily golf clinics by former U.S. Amateur champion and resident pro Eric Meeks.

Other highlights include long drive and trick shot shows with Lynn Ray, plus blowout deals on equipment and apparel. The first 1,500 golfers who pay admission will receive a round of golf (a cart fee applies) at Mountain Falls, Wildhorse or Black Mountain along with a $10 gift card for Las Vegas Golf and Tennis.

The Southern Nevada Golf Association and local junior golf organizations will have contests to benefit junior golf, plus 11 golf vacation packages will be available for bid.

For more information, go to TaylorMadeGolfExperience.com.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Clark County resident rates at Primm Valley, home of two Tom Fazio courses, start at $35 during the week and $40 on weekends (Friday through Sunday) and include a free sleeve of Callaway golf balls.

VOLUNTEERS WANTED

The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open needs volunteers for its Oct. 31 to Nov. 6 PGA Tour event at TPC Summerlin. For more information, email dmillwood@shrinershospitalsopen.com.

STARS ON, OFF COURSE

Tiger Woods hitting golf balls during Tiger Jam at Shadow Creek. His return from injury continues.

The golf notebook appears each Thursday. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider.

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