April 9, 2010 in Sports

Charity drivers

Not enough written about how much pro golfers give back
Mike Bianchi The Orlando Sentinel
 
Associated Press photo

Ernie Els autism foundation is trying to raise $30 million to build a school for autistic children.
(Full-size photo)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Sometimes, we forget.

Amid all the commotion about hitting a round ball with square grooves and all the clamor over Tiger’s tawdry temptresses, we sometimes forget the true meaning of the PGA Tour.

Giving.

Helping.

Donating.

I was reminded of this a few days ago during the Arnold Palmer Invitational when I glanced over a news release handed to me by a staff member of the PGA Tour. The release told of how the Tour last year raised $108 million in charitable contributions and was approaching an all-time total of $1.5 billion. Yes, that’s BILLION.

Too many times in the media, cynical sports writers cast these news releases aside like a can of O’Doul’s or use them as drop cloths to keep the hotdog relish from dripping on our laptops.

Good news, you see, doesn’t sell so well; doesn’t get the cheap, voyeuristic clicks like the cheesecake photo gallery of Tiger’s alleged mistresses. We would rather drive over to Perkins restaurant in search of one of Tiger’s babes instead of driving to the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in search of the hundreds of babies there who are born premature and nurtured to health every year.

Mark Twain once said that golf is a good walk spoiled. These days, it seems, negativity has turned golf into a good cause spoiled.

“Sometimes, it does seem like our mission gets lost on people,” admits Ty Votaw, executive vice president of the PGA Tour.

Strange, isn’t it? We perceive professional golf as the most aristocratic sport of them all, but actually it is the most altruistic.

Every golf tournament on the Tour is affiliated with a charity and donates every bit of its profits to that charity. Two week’s ago in Orlando it was Arnie’s children’s hospital, last week in Houston it was a youth sports organization, next month in Ponte Vedra Beach it will be a home for underprivileged families.

We are so busy chronicling the next steroids abuser or sexual predator in sports that we don’t have time to write about the golfer whose foundation helps feed the hungry or educate the needy.

The Tour is filled with guys like Ernie Els, whose autism foundation is in the midst of trying to raise $30 million to build a school for autistic children.

“You know, we play for so much prize money that it’s great to see that every week, every tournament site gives money to charity,” Els said. “I would say 80 percent of the players out there have some kind of foundation or charity they support. It’s just the right thing to do. We get so much that I think it’s our duty to give something back. “

There will always be those who complain and say the Tour puts too much money into the tournament purses and not enough into tournament charities, but can you really criticize a sport that does so much for so many?

Can you imagine what the world would be like if every sport was like golf and donated all its profits to worthy causes?

Imagine if the New York Yankees gave everything they made to fighting crime? Imagine if every NFL or NBA owner contributed every cent of surplus revenue to improving their city’s schools?

Imagine if college football factories, instead of pouring countless millions into building extravagant and extraneous 30,000 square-foot weight rooms, donated their profits to campus health clinics?

God bless golf for all that it does — from the PGA Tour raising millions to build hospitals to the local charity golf tournament raising a few thousand for the church youth group to take a mission trip.

Bet you didn’t know more than $3 billion a year is given to charitable organizations because of golf tournaments?

With all of the awful publicity surrounding Tiger’s troubles and the rotten economy wreaking havoc on the Tour’s sponsors, it’s about time somebody pointed out all the good things, good causes and good guys associated with the game of golf.

The PGA Tour is trying to push its all-time charitable contributions to $2 billion in the next three years and has developed a motivational motto to go with its mission:

“Together, anything’s possible.”

Unlike most other sports, golf actually puts its money where its mantra is.


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