The First Tee of Fort Worth is about more than golf. It aims to develop character and instill values in children through the sport.
“Golf is just the vehicle we use,” said Kevin Long, the executive director of First Tee of Fort Worth. “It’s a bridge to a successful future. We work with thousands and thousands of young people in our service area, which is four-plus counties.”
That work can’t be done without financial support, though, and the First Tee of Fort Worth is among the many charities that benefit from money raised during the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Fort Worth’s annual golf tournament had a record-setting year from a charitable standpoint, raising $14,087,455. Long, along with representatives from 33 other charitable organizations, celebrated the milestone during a luncheon on Thursday at Colonial Country Club.
“This just shows how dedicated and how hard working charities are in our community,” said Rob Hood, Colonial’s tournament chairman. “They come out every year, they work like crazy and they just keep raising more and more money.”
Much of the $14 million was generated through the tournament’s “Birdies For Charity” campaign. Charitable organizations solicit pledges from individuals and corporations for every birdie made during the tournament.
Pros made 1,111 birdies during tournament rounds, generating more than $13 million.
“They play the course really well,” Hood said, “But the course holds it own every year too. They never run away with it.”
Still, birdies are welcomed during tournament week given the link to the charities. Plus, for the charities involved, it’s an easier sales pitch when it’s tied to the tournament.
“We’re all looking for opportunities for people to hear the stories of the things that we’re doing,” said Mike Doyle, chief executive officer of Cornerstone Assistance Network.
“It’s a little bit difficult just to ask somebody to share their resources, so Colonial has put together a way to make there be a little more incentive for our donors.”
The charitable causes supported across the board include scholarships; programs and services for abused, neglected and at-risk children; cultural programs and field trips for under-served students; and support services for homeless families.
Colonial ranks among the top charitable tournaments on the PGA Tour. It has supported more than 150 organizations in the last 25 years with more than $130 million donated.
Hood believes this is a reason why Colonial managed to secure a long-term sponsorship deal with Charles Schwab when the tournament’s future hung in doubt following the 2018 event.
“This is an integral part of how we were able to maintain this tournament and keep this tournament,” Hood said. “When the PGA Tour took a hard look at this community, and potential sponsors took a hard look at this community, they saw how this community steps up and takes care of its own.”
Next year’s Colonial will take place over Memorial Day weekend once again with tournament rounds being played May 21-24. The event will follow one of golf’s four major championships, the PGA Championship, for the second consecutive season.