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Sony Open festivities provide perspective


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POSTED: Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The actual tournament hasn't started, and I'm inspired.

Thank you, Dan Rooney (not the Steelers' owner, a different guy).

This Dan Rooney is the only PGA pro who also happens to be a fighter pilot. He moonlights as Maj. Dan Rooney of the Oklahoma Air National Guard. He's served three tours in Iraq.

But that's not what makes him truly unique.

Yesterday at Waialae Country Club, home of the Sony Open in Hawaii that starts tomorrow, Rooney and a bunch of other skydivers got everyone's attention, plopping onto the 18th fairway from 6,000 feet above.

Still, that's not what makes Rooney special (in fact, unlike the other jumpers, he arrived tandem-style, with someone else “;piloting”; his chute).

Rooney is the founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation, which helps the families of fallen U.S. military combatants with education costs. So far, it has raised $5 million for more than 900 scholarships.

Its big annual event is Patriot Golf Day, when courses around the country ask that players donate $1 to the foundation each Labor Day.

DJ Gregory, author of “;Walking With Friends,”; was also on hand yesterday. Gregory was born with cerebral palsy and his parents were told he would never walk. He has since proven those doctors wrong by walking every hole of every PGA tour stop.

Rooney and Gregory were introduced prior to the friendly competition matching pros and Hawaii junior golfers as teammates around the 18th green. The amazing story of Tadd Fujikawa — born prematurely and also given long odds by doctors — also resonated.

I went to watch a skills challenge, but got a life-lesson as a bonus. Hopefully at least a few of the hundreds of kids ringing the green saw it that way too.

» THERE'S JUST no way to get around it. University of Hawaii basketball is in bad shape.

We'll cut Dana Takahara-Dias and her Rainbow Wahine some slack for now, because it's her first year as head coach.

But Bob Nash is in his third season at the men's helm, and this group of players — fairly talented on paper — is underachieving at an alarming rate. The Rainbows have lost three of their first four conference games, the last a record-breaking debacle at Utah State.

There is plenty to pick on about this squad, but the worst thing I've seen it do (actually, not do) occurred in the WAC opener against Boise State.

Paul Campbell — who is UH's steadiest player — was shoved violently from behind after grabbing a rebound. The refs blew it, since it should have been called a flagrant foul, with an ejection. What was worse was the non-reaction of Campbell's teammates. When one of your guys takes a cheap shot like that, someone needs to get in the face of the offender. No one did.

» BAD WEEK for USC. The Trojans lost their football coach, their men's volleyball team got upset by a fired up UH team, and Mark McGwire came across as arrogant in his choreographed steroids “;apology.”;

Does this make Pete Carroll the John Calipari of football, hustling out of town one step ahead of the posse? If Norm Chow bounces back from UCLA can he and new coach Lane Kiffin co-exist long enough for Chow's homecoming against UH in the season opener?

Re Big Mac: It takes a special breed of narcissist to work in that you hit a home run in your first Little League at-bat during a steroids admission conversation.

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Reach Star-Bulletin sports columnist Dave Reardon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), his “;Quick Reads”; blog at starbulletin.com, and twitter.com/davereardon.