Rory Sabbatini, the 2007 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial champion, purchased a spot in the Wednesday Colonial Pro-Am for Chad Snowden this past week. Snowden is a wounded U.S. soldier who had dreams of playing professional golf as a child. In 2004, while serving in Iraq, Snowden was shot in the head by a sniper. Purchasing the pro-am spot was not the first such act by Sabbatini, who donates a portion of his PGA Tour earnings to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. That program promotes the support of injured soldiers and their families.
Those types of personal donations from the players are on top of the millions of dollars that the PGA Tour and its tournaments generate annually for local charities in the cities where they are played. A few years ago the Tour hit $1 billion in cumulative donations. The Tourís leading tournament in terms of donations is another Texas event, the Byron Nelson Classic, which was held in April this year. The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial supports dozens of Fort Worth charities. The tournament has contributed more than $17 million to community charities during its 61-year history. In 2006, the tournament contributed over $2.7 million to more than 70 community charities, and expects to top that number after this yearís event.
Locally, several golf tournaments also benefit area charities during the course of the year. Perhaps the most successful is the TexasBank Golf Classic, which took the PGA Tourís Drive For $1 Billion and localized it with a four-year Drive for $100,000. In the first two years of the effort, the tournament raised $60,000 for the Pregnancy Care Center, the Brown County Boys and Girls Club, the Pearl Griffin Memorial Latch Key Program and CASA in the Heart of Texas.
One of the reasons TexasBank and the PGA Tour have continued to successfully raise money for charity is because the organizations they support are local in nature. Ours is a generous society and when the call for help comes, we are quick to respond. Look at the outpouring of donations in the wake of 9-11, or 2004ís tsunami that devastated coastal regions of Asia and East Africa.
The national Red Cross received a majority of the donations, but quickly found itself in the middle of a controversy when it admitted that some donations had been set aside for future disasters rather than going to the event for which they were earmarked. There are no allegations of financial impropriety, but rather concerns about misdirecting the funds, and that the donations were not actually going to the people they were made to help.
Local efforts to raise money that support local charitable organizations donít generally carry that same risk. A donor knows that money donated for a local charity will primarily stay at the local level, and it will help someone in this community. The Brown County United Way has long stipulated that the funds it gives to local agencies be used locally for services, not to support a national headquarter staff or operation.
Whether itís a new building for Good Samaritan Ministries, playground equipment for Coggin Park, golf tournaments for TexasBank charities or the annual United Way fundraiser, this community has supported those local efforts because local donors can see their money at work.
Itís a safe bet that we wonít be getting a visit from a PGA Tour player at the Golf Classic, although there will no doubt be veterans in the playing field, perhaps some of whom have even been wounded in combat. The story of Rory Sabbatini and Chad Snowden is one of the positive stories to come out of major sports this spring ó and serves as a reminder of the attention (and money) that can be raised for charitable causes through sports. The fact that the beneficiaries are our neighbors makes the storyís ending even better.
Bill Crist is associate publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.