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Lacey Underall’s Caddyshack Golf Tournament Spawns Lawsuit

Chicago- Still sort of famous 25 years after she played Lacey Underall in one of the most-quoted comedies ever made, Chicago native Cindy Morgan agreed to try to reunite some of the cast of “Caddyshack” for a charity golf tournament that would raise money for military families.

But after golf was played, drinks and dinner were had and the bills rolled in, nobody was yukking it up.

The 2006 tournament raised no money, but it did break up friendships and spawn lawsuits. Even such luminaries as the state’s lieutenant governor — who kicked off the event with a news conference — are distancing themselves from the fundraiser.

The corporate-sponsored event, held over three days in July 2006 at the Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort and Willow Crest Golf Club in west suburban Oak Brook, was supposed to give duffers a chance to play a round with a couple of “Caddyshack” cast members and sports celebrities like Jim McMahon. The event was expected to raise about $250,000 for the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, a trust that benefits families of National Guard troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Morgan, the love interest of Chevy Chase in the 1980 movie, which also starred Bill Murray, said in a phone interview that she essentially got in over her head and trusted a professional planner who set a budget for the event that was about triple what it should have been.

“I was naive about it — believe me, I got my eyes opened,” said Morgan, who now lives in South Florida. “A lot of people promised me a lot of things. I’m not whining; I understand it’s my responsibility — it’s my name on it.

“We didn’t come out with a profit, what we did was raise awareness,” she said, adding that the only reimbursement she received was for a cell phone bill. “I know it’s in the red. I feel like a sitting duck. If somebody did something wrong, I’ll freakin’ kill them myself.”

The hotel and golf course that played host to the tournament said in a recently filed lawsuit that Morgan’s non-profit corporation still owes nearly $100,000. And Hamilton Mitchell, who played a caddy named Motormouth in the film, sued Morgan in a California court for failing to pay his appearance fee.

Morgan said she recently hired an attorney to help her retrieve the receipts on the non-profit’s account, which she said may contain only about $4,000. She said that she has repeatedly asked for but not received a financial statement from her co-chairwoman, Cathi Kay, and that the IRS has sent notices because the non-profit failed to file its annual paperwork. Kay, a Chicago-area loan officer, would not comment for this story.

But those still owed money lay the blame squarely on Morgan. They say they fell for her claims that cast members Chase and Murray would appear at the event (they didn’t) and now believe Morgan, who makes appearances at golf courses, may have seen the tournament as a way to drum up business for herself.

Morgan said she was supposed to be just a figurehead and spokeswoman for the event but ended up basically managing it herself.

Tim Lowery, an attorney for the Oak Brook Hills Marriott Resort, declined to comment in detail on the case other than to say he didn’t know Morgan hadn’t received all the financial details of the tournament.

The hotel’s lawsuit, filed Nov. 14 in DuPage County Circuit Court, alleges Morgan’s tournament never paid about $31,000 for catering, drinks and other services. The non-profit owes an additional $64,000 because the event failed to book the equivalent of about 100 rooms, according to the lawsuit.

Morgan said she signed a contract for more rooms than were needed on the advice of a professional planner. When she realized the error, she said, she pushed the tournament date from May to July and tried to renegotiate the contract.

“I had a gun to my head by the Marriott that we needed to agree to the same terms,” she said. “They gave me no choice. We pounded the pavement, but we just didn’t get enough people there.”

As far as celebrities, she said that actor Tim Meadows — a Second City alum and longtime “Saturday Night Live” cast member — and Chicagoan George Wendt of “Cheers” fame helped with one of the fundraisers, as did actor John Barmon, who played Spaulding Smails in “Caddyshack.” She said Murray’s brothers John and Joel also showed up.

She said she doesn’t know how many people attended the event because Kay has all the receipts, but she said fewer than 100 people actually golfed.

Morgan said she regrets the end of her friendship with Mitchell.

Mitchell had not been paid his appearance fee for the event, which his California attorney, Kenneth Koury, said was less than $2,000 but which Morgan claims was $5,000, and a plane ticket.

Koury filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mitchell in fall 2006 and said that it was settled quickly. Morgan said it was negotiated down to about $3,000.

Morgan said he wasn’t paid immediately because a major sponsor didn’t issue the charity a check until about four months after the event. Plus, she said, Mitchell left early, forcing her to cancel a couple of fundraising events.

She also said that other “Caddyshack” cast members left the event a day early.

Elizabeth Austin, a spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who kicked off the event with a downtown news conference, said there is no record of any donation to the military families’ fund from the charity event or Morgan. Austin said it was “very disappointing” that “a benefit of this magnitude” did not raise a cent.

Born Cynthia Ann Cichorski on the North Side, Morgan grew up in Schiller Park, but her parents later moved to Arlington Heights. She attended Northern Illinois University and was once a weather personality in Rockford.

She found fame as Lacey in “Caddyshack” and starred in the 1982 Disney movie “Tron,” and appeared on such TV shows as “Falcon Crest” and “The Larry Sanders Show.”

She’s now in her 50s and semiretired on an actors guild pension.

“I did [the tournament] because I’m the daughter of a Polish immigrant who lied about his age to get into the Army [during World War II],” she said. “I would do it again, as much pain as it was and aggravation because it’s the right thing to do.

“I just don’t want it to reflect badly on people raising money for the family of the military.”

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