The PGA TOUR’s Charitable Tradition
In May 2009, PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem made an announcement that may have surprised many people given the state of an economy generally described as the worst since the great depression.
Finchem confirmed a far-reaching program that reflected the TOUR’s historic commitment to charity by its players, tournaments, sponsors, charities, 100,000 volunteers and millions of fans — a commitment reflected in $1.4 billion the TOUR has generated for charities from 1938 through 2008.
“The PGA TOUR has done a lot for charity over the years, but only because of the passion for giving back shared by our players, tournaments, sponsors, charities, volunteers and fans,” said Finchem. “When we say, ‘Together, anything’s possible,’ we mean that by rallying behind the common cause of charitable giving, we can create greater awareness and elevate our overall impact, which is so important in these difficult economic times.”
The TOUR’s goal is to reach the $2 billion mark by 2013, a figure that would have stunned the players and tournament organizers who in 1938 contributed $10,000 to local charities at the Palm Beach Invitational. It was an unprecedented action in professional sports, and in the years since, no other sport has come close to matching either the TOUR’s commitment or its contributions.
Most of the 100-plus tournaments on the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour are structured as nonprofit organizations designed to donate 100% of net proceeds to local charities. The tournaments generated a record $124 million for charities in 2008, despite the difficult economic situation.
Take the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, for example, a mainstay of the Akron, Ohio, community. Through the years, the tournament has contributed more than $19 million to the Northern Ohio Golf Charities, including nearly $1 million in 2008. “Our company has a culture of giving back to its communities; our partnership with the Northern Ohio Golf Charities is an extension of this philosophy put into practice,” says Mark A. Emkes, Chairman, CEO and President of Bridgestone Americas, Inc. “The charitable component of the Bridgestone Invitational is very important to us.”
Some 3,000 organizations and millions of people are the recipients of the TOUR’s contributions, and they encompass a wide spectrum of society. They include education, health and human services, youth development, community services and programs designed to grow the game of golf through organizations like The First Tee.
None of this would have been possible without the support of the players, many of whom have undertaken charitable efforts of their own with the support of the TOUR. A perfect example is how players from Louisiana rallied to help residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, as 12-time tournament winner David Toms explained following the 2009 announcement that the TOUR would lend players a broad range of support services for their individual charitable initiatives.
“I am very excited that the TOUR will be helping us all make a bigger impact on our communities,” said Toms, who was joined in the post-Katrina effort by fellow TOUR members and Louisiana residents Kelly Gibson and Hal Sutton. “Two days after Hurricane Katrina hit, I sent an e-mail to about 200 people and asked if they would be interested in supporting the cause. I thought we would be able to raise a little money and help a few more families. The response to that simple e-mail was overwhelming. We had to get volunteers to help answer the phones, and within hours of an interview I did during a PGA TOUR broadcast, over 1,000 online donations crashed our system. It wasn't long before we had raised over $1.5 million. That is an example of how we, as players, can help our communities and charities in times of need.”
Given the broad fan base the TOUR enjoys, efforts are under way to involve them in the charitable efforts in an unprecedented way. The TOUR is developing a communications plan under the umbrella message “Together, anything’s possible” that will add support on a national level, making it easier for fans to track the charitable efforts of their favorite players, tournaments or charities and to support those charities through volunteer efforts and contributions.
“Our fans — like everyone else — are asking the question, ‘What more can I do to help those in my community in need?’” says Finchem. “Connecting them to the charities associated with our players and our tournaments will enable us to help them answer that question in a meaningful way.”
Just one great example of putting the “Together, anything’s possible” mantra into practice is Bridgestone’s creative fundraiser in support of The First Tee. Fans who tee off in Bridgestone’s “Driving to Benefit First Tee” exhibits at select TOUR stops can have their drives converted to miles, with Bridgestone Tire donating $25 per mile to The First Tee. This program will raise more than $25,000 in 2009.
Some 3,000 organizations and millions of people are the recipients of the TOUR’s contributions.
Beyond the well-noted charitable work done by the Tours, the PGA TOUR has traditionally made special efforts to support American troops in times of war. During World War II, players competed for purses that were paid in war bonds that helped fund the war effort. In addition, TOUR members played countless exhibitions designed to raise funds for war bonds. Today, that same spirit has manifested itself in numerous ways, both large and small.
One prominent example dates back to 2007, when Tiger Woods — whose late father, Earl, served with the Army’s Green Berets in Vietnam — agreed to host the AT&T National in Bethesda, Md. The tournament is specifically designed to honor the armed forces. All military personnel receive free admission, and many participate in events linked to the tournament.
“I think that when you’re around it, you understand the level of commitment,” said Woods in 2007. “I know I can’t serve with them, but I just want to say thank you in some way. They put their lives on the line so we can enjoy our freedom.”
In addition, the TOUR’s corporate partners have historically played crucial roles in charitable efforts. For example, since its inception in 2000, the Payne Stewart Award, sponsored by Southern Company, has recognized and honored individuals who share and reflect Stewart’s commitment to charity, the game’s traditions and the professionalism of the TOUR. As the “Official Energy Sponsor of the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour,” Southern Company contributes $300,000 annually to the cause.
Finally, the TOUR’s commitment to charity is expressed clearly in the biennial Presidents Cup Matches, which feature teams from the United States playing against those from non-European countries. The Presidents Cup has raised $17 million in the seven competitions held since it began in 1994, including a record $4.2 million in 2007. In lieu of receiving winnings, players, team captains and captain’s assistants designate which of their favorite charities should receive the monies raised as donations.
All in all, the TOUR has provided a lot of help to a lot of people who really needed a helping hand.
If only those visionaries back in 1938 could have known what they started.
Payne Stewart’s death in 1999, shortly after his victory in the U.S. Open, stunned the golf world, and in particular the family that is the PGA TOUR. The TOUR collectively mourned not only a champion who had won three major championships and eight other TOUR events, but someone they cherished as a friend who personified all that was good and special about the game of golf.
The TOUR sought to find a way to honor Stewart and created the Payne Stewart Award, presented annually to a player who shares and symbolizes Stewart’s respect for golf’s traditions, his belief in the game’s historic commitment to charitable giving, and the professional manner in which he represented the game and the TOUR, both on and off the course.
“Payne was a great champion, a gentleman and a devoted husband and father,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem in announcing the creation of the award. “He will always be remembered as a very special competitor, and one who contributed enormously to the positive image of professional golf.
“If we’re not playing golf, I don’t know how else we can honor him,” Finchem added. “There’s not much of a forum to remind people about Payne. This provides us a way to tell what he was all about.”
“In the end, it’s still a game of golf, and if at the end of the day you can’t shake hands with your opponents and still be friends, then you’ve missed the point.”
From the beginning, Southern Company, the “Official Energy Sponsor of the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour,” has contributed $300,000 annually toward the award program, with $100,000 going to Payne and Tracey Stewart’s primary charity, The Stewart Family Foundation; $100,000 in Stewart’s honor to The First Tee of the Ozarks, located in Missouri at Kids Across America, affiliated with Kanakuk Kamps; and $100,000 to a charity designated by the winner.
Southern Company’s commitment to the award and to Stewart’s memory stems from its corporate credo, which closely aligns with the very traditional values of golf that Stewart himself embraced: honesty, respect, fairness, integrity and a total commitment to strive for the best possible performance.
Southern Company is proud to honor Kenny Perry as this year’s Payne Stewart Award recipient for his good works both on and off the course.
Past recipients include Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer (2000); Ben Crenshaw (2001); Nick Price (2002); Tom Watson (2003); Jay Haas (2004); Brad Faxon (2005); Gary Player (2006); Hal Sutton (2007); and Davis Love III (2008).
Photos courtesy of Hunter Martin/Getty Images
Payne Stewart Award © 2000 Pack Sports Bronzes, Inc. All Rights Reserved.