The Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation is preparing to host its inaugural golf tournament in Scottsdale in September to help its efforts against cancer.
The Lombardi Southwest Open will take place Sept. 17 at Talking Stick Golf Club in Scottsdale. Golfers can expect to be treated to breakfast and a mimosa bar before playing a round of 18 at Talking Stick. The golf outing is scheduled to be followed by an evening celebration, where there will be dinner, drinks, dancing, raffles and a silent auction, among other festivities.
“It’s always a challenge since its year one,” Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation Board President Paul “Mo” Moline said. “The interest from the public, we’re trying to work through a lot of connections with our committee members to get exposure. When I look at year three to five down the road, this is going to be a million-dollar event. We’ll get there.”
This year’s event is the first of its kind in Scottsdale. The Lombardi Foundation previously hosted the MJ Cancer Free Golf Event in Grapevine, Texas for three years, but made 2021 the final year for that venue.
Mo and his friend Jim Round created the MJ Cancer Free Golf Event more than 20 years ago to raise money toward cancer research. Both had their own bouts with the disease.
The tournament blossomed into one that not only included golf outings, but concerts and other charitable events that took place over two or three days at a time. The two hosted it for more than two decades and raised more than $8 million for cancer research in that span. The Lombardi Foundation jumped on board after Mo became president.
However, Mo knew the event would eventually run its course. And after relocating to Scottsdale three years ago, he knew it would be the perfect destination.
“I’ve been coming out here for about 25 years, so I was very familiar with golf in Arizona,” Mo said. “Talking Stick for me became that one-stop shop. The vision is that over the years as we grow out here, to expand just beyond the golf component because we are in a pretty affluent area.”
Mo decided to rebrand the event this year to include the name of Vince Lombardi. In his mind, individuals who read ‘MJ’ often think of Michael Jordan rather than Mo and Jim, so the name change to one that is widely recognizable in the sports world was an easy decision to make.
He also idolized what the Lombardi Foundation does to support cancer treatments, research and cures.
Cancer ravaged Mo’s family. His mother was taken by the disease in 2011 and just three months later at 50 years old, so was his brother. In 2013, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Fortunately, early detection saved his life.
He chose to go through removal surgery. Within months he was back to playing golf. But living in the Valley, he’s also had some run-ins with skin cancer. Again, early detection was key in those cases.
“Life was, for the most part, as normal as possible,” Mo said. “I was one of the fortunate ones who got through that. I’m a sunscreen freak but the damage was done when I was on the Florida beaches.”
Mo takes pride in being able to host events that benefit cancer research and foundations like Lombardi. It’s been years of hard work that goes beyond the golf course.
He is often overcome with emotion at times while presenting checks at local hospitals. He’s also been in contact at times with Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Mo said he is blessed to have been in the position he was at 54 to be able to retire. But much of his energy now has shifted focus to finding a cure for cancer. He doesn’t take life for granted.
“It really is an honor to be alive. I don’t take that for granted,” Mo said. “You want that story to have a similar type of ending for a lot of people. You can’t bring back anybody we lost, but we certainly can impact the people that are inevitably going to deal with something in their life.”
The Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy will be on hand for a photo opportunity. It’s one of the many unique opportunities for those in attendance to take advantage of. Tickets for the Lombardi Southwest Open are available now at lombardifoundation.org/lombardi-southwest-open.
Mo said the event was hoping to fill with 144 golfers. Word of mouth on social media has so far been a key driver for exposure with the event. But he is hopeful for a big turnout come Sept. 17.
“It’s been a dream I’ve had years back to have the event out in Arizona,” Mo said. “To get to that point now, it’s weird, you manage the emotions around it. The week of there’s a heightened level of stress around it. You also get some butterflies as you get close to it but that’s a good thing. That means you’re engaged.”