Both of these events happened in Robeson County.
Between Baltimore Ravens fullback Vonta Leach, a Rowland native and graduate of South Robeson High School, and PGA pro William McGirt, a Fairmont native and graduate of Fairmont High, the county claims a pair of homegrown professional athletes who remember their roots and then some.
And it’s a cool thing to witness firsthand.
When Leach, who was recently selected to his second straight Pro Bowl, strolled into Walmart last week, the bustling chit-chat circling around Walmart’s Garden Center fell to a hush and eyes locked on the 6-foot, 260-pounder. You could feel the kids and their families’ synchronized smiles form, triggering a grin from Leach himself.
Chris Kringle could’ve walked through the crowd at that very moment and no one would’ve noticed. They didn’t need a Santa. Leach had it covered.
“It’s all about helping someone else,” Leach said. “And, at this time of the year there are many opportunities to help less fortunate children have a great Christmas.”
As for McGirt, who recently regained full status on the PGA Tour for the 2012 year, he passed along life and golf lessons at Pinecrest Country Club on Tuesday. His arrival floored the youth golfers of the Jamie Locklear Golf Academy. In fact, the kids were skeptical that a PGA pro would actually be in their midst.
“They still didn’t believe he was going to come,” Locklear said Tuesday. “They were like, ‘There’s no way you’re going to have a (PGA) Tour player in here’. And I was like, ‘OK, we’ll see’.”
There, a few steps in front of the kids perched in their chairs, stood McGirt, donning his TaylorMade sponsored apparel.
“They were so keyed in,” Locklear said. “I’m just glad that he would come out and take his time to do this. It’s awesome for these kids.”
As they say, the holidays are a time for giving. That sentiment, while true, often drifts into the ether as soon as the “taking” takes over.
In a sports year where lockouts — the NFL and NBA — put a “greedy” stigma on professional sports, there are athletes like Leach and McGirt who remind us that there are plenty of pros out their giving back in big ways.
Reach Sports Editor Kaleb Roedel at 910-272-6111 or firstname.lastname@example.org