David Ortiz admits his golf game needs work. He only plays "once in a while," he says, not enough to even have a handicap.
"But I'm going to work on it,'' he said Thursday, "because I plan to have this tournament every year, and I want people to be talking about my golf skills.''
Ortiz this weekend is hosting the first David Ortiz Celebrity Golf Classic at the Sanctuary Cap Cana Golf and Spa Resort in the Dominican Republic, to benefit the David Ortiz Children's Fund. His charity work, unlike his golf, is already executed at the highest level. This past spring, UNICEF honored Ortiz with its 2008 Children's Champion Award for his work in developing and supporting Heart Care Dominicana, the island nation's first pediatric cardiovascular facility.
The award in the past has gone to such luminaries as Nelson Mandela of South Africa, British actor Roger Moore, and Queen Noor of Jordan.
More than 45 Dominican children with congenital heart defects have undergone surgery due in great part to the support of Ortiz, who has made this his primary cause for the last three years. It is now the inspiration for his golf tournament, which has drawn an impressive who's who from baseball, including Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Ryan Howard, Torii Hunter and Jimmy Rollins, along with some of Ortiz's Red Sox teammates and team CEO Larry Lucchino. Boston sports legends Bobby Orr, John Havlicek, Jim Rice and Luis Tiant also are scheduled to attend.
"All my friends have been giving me a lot of support,'' he said. "I kind of understand now that people really like me. I've got everybody coming in. Good things, man.''
Ortiz, still recovering from the effects of surgery performed on his left wrist last spring, is limited in his physical activity. "The inflammation has been going away, thank God,'' he said. "My hand looks good. I'll go back to the doctor weekend after next, and he'll tell me, 'OK, you can start swinging again,' or 'you might need a few more weeks.' I don't know. It all depends on what he says.''
He has done some weight-lifting, he says, but otherwise he and his wife, Tiffany, have focused their efforts on the golf tournament and accompanying online auction, which includes such novelty items as playing a game of H-O-R-S-E with Ortiz and Celtics star Ray Allen, and a pitching lesson from Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
"All we're doing down here is trying to help the kids,'' Ortiz said. "Let people know that whatever they do with this tournament, they're saving a life.''