Darrin Bush/Las Vegas News Bureau
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 | 10 p.m.
2013 Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational
2013 Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational
Alan Thicke and Bruce Jenner
2013 MJCI gala at Aria
Legendary NBA superstar Michael Jordan may well have two new titles to add to his name: “Golf Great” and “Baron of Blackjack.” He did so well on the greens and at the tables on his visit that he’s already renewed his star-packed Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational for next year’s return to Aria and Shadow Creek.
Michael missed a $500,000 payoff for a hole-in-one at Shadow Creek golf course by just one inch, but he did win the charity fundraising blackjack tournament with $250,000 in chips. Plus, he won actor Will Smith as his golf caddy (last year, it was Ashton Kutcher).
It was the third consecutive year for Michael’s tournament at MGM Resorts’ high-roller Shadow Creek, and more than $500,000 was raised for charity during the four days. He’s now eclipsed $2.5 million in fundraising.
What a way to get ready for his April 27 wedding to fiancee Yvette Prieto in Florida, and the romantic twosome enjoyed a Las Vegas-styled, pre-honeymoon vacation as part of the golfing weekend.
The 12th annual four-day event for amateurs and professionals broke into a celebrities-only playoff Saturday, and it ended with a familiar leader on top, as defending champion soccer star Brandi Chastain and partner MLB legend Ken Griffey Jr. took the early lead with a 7 under par 65.
Former St. Louis Cardinals teammates Ozzie Smith and Vince Coleman finished 2nd at -6 (66). Host Michael was just six strokes back. Our thanks to videographer Richard Corey for his YouTube videos during the 2013 MJCI.
GOLF GLEANINGS: MLB great Paul O’Neill (New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds) had the play of the day at the 17th, grabbing the hole-in-one and the $500,000 payoff. Fans and fellow golfers Richard Dent, Winky Wright and Bruce Smith went crazy as the ball bounced and rolled into the hole. After the incredible shot, Ron Harper told Paul: “Guess you’ll be paying for everybody’s bill tonight!”
Michael played with partner Dwight Freeny, giving him high-fives around the course against opponents Michael Phelps and Mario Lemieux. Brandi, who competed on ABC’s “Splash” on Tuesday night with our hometown comedy king Louie Anderson, was on fire: At hole 10, she sank a deep putt; she made a long putt on 11; by day’s end, she was at the top of the leader board.
It was all laughs with Bruce Jenner, Alan Thicke, Ozzie and Vince. Starting out the day, Alan joked, “I asked for any Kardashian, and they gave me this one,” referring to partner Bruce. At hole 13, Julius “Dr. J” Erving sank a 25-foot putt for a birdie. As they finished on hole 18, teammate Ron Harper danced on the greens to Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie.”
Ozzie and Vince joined forces to again win a title, this time on the golf course. On the final day of play, Brandi hit her tee shot into the crowd, clipping a fan. Immediately apologetic, she made up for the stray shot by giving him a back rub with an ice pack. In what’s becoming an MJCI tradition, Brandi spent more than an hour at tournament’s end giving soccer lessons to kids outside the clubhouse.
IT’S SHOW TIME: Back at Aria, the red carpet was a rush-hour jam with Michael leading a parade of stars including Will, Don Cheadle, Bruce and Brody Jenner, Chevy Chase, Michael Phelps, Dr. J, Jerry Rice and Wayne Gretzky. Young Joseph Domingues was an all-star for the evening via the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Chefs from Aria restaurants Sage, Lemongrass, Javier’s, Blossom, Bar Masa, Tetsu, Jean-Georges Steakhouse and Sirio served taste treats. Then it was time for entertainment by Monte Carlo headliners Blue Man Group, host Wayne Brady and singer John Legend, who said he was star struck with his audience. Michael and Yvette sat stage front and center with their pal Will.
BLACKJACK: Aria’s Deuce Lounge was wall to wall for Michael’s blackjack tournament. Kevin Dillon played in the tournament and made it all the way to the final round before being knocked out in the final few hands. Michael scored the big win of $250,000 in chips, all of which benefited the various charities.
Michael is already predicting that there’ll be an even bigger star turnout when he returns here this time next year.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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