PGA TOUR Destinations

 

The "Texas Swing"

 

May 2009

 

 

The "Texas Swing," the three Texas PGA TOUR events played in succession in May of this year, are close to my heart. Since I am a resident of Austin, Texas, I view the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, the HP Byron Nelson Championship in Dallas, the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth, along with the Shell Houston Open as my home tournaments. It is fun to have my family and friends gather at these events each year. I also enjoy the familiarity of these golf courses, which I have played consistently throughout my career on the PGA Tour. The theme of this month's newsletter is "Giving back through Golf." One of the outstanding services of the PGA TOUR is the way each tournament gives back to local charities through golf. The PGA TOUR donated $124 million to charity in 2008, a single season record. Since 1938 the TOUR has donated $1.4 billion to charity! This month's feature will focus on the Texas tournaments and the charities they support.

 

Valero Texas Open

 

The Valero Texas Open in San Antonio is played at the Westin La Cantera Resort, a hilly layout set in the beautiful Texas hill country. There are plenty of activities and site seeing in the area, such as Six Flags Fiesta Texas, the historic Alamo, and the entertaining Riverwalk. The La Cantera course was built in an old Texas rock quarry creating breathtaking views and a deceptively tight layout with grainy Bermuda greens.

 

The Texas Open has consistently donated generously to charity throughout the years. In fact, it is one of the most charitable tournaments on the PGA TOUR, raising $8.4 million for charities in 2007 (1). The Texas Open fundraises for the San Antonio Children's Foundations, Golf San Antonio, The First Tee of San Antonio, and Chip in for Schools. Last year, for the first time, Valero Energy Foundation gave a separate donation of $100,000 to Feed the Children, which will feed 200 children for an entire year. Golf San Antonio manages a fundraising program called Birdies for Charity. The number of birdies made Wednesday through Sunday of the Valero Texas Open are tallied and then corporations make pledges to donate to charitable organizations based on the number of birdies made. In 2007, there were 2,294 birdies made and nearly $1 million in donations given to children's charities. The tournament also donates to the The First Tee of San Antonio. The First Tee program aims to promote character development and life-enhancing values to children through the game of golf. The nine core values taught through the First Tee program are honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy, and judgment. For more information about the First Tee Program read The First Tee article in this month's newsletter. Chip in for Schools is a program to help schools earn money for their school programs by selling advance tickets to the Valero Texas Open. The Valero Teas Open donates 100% of the money raised by these early ticket sales to the Chip in for Schools program.

 

HP Byron Nelson Championship

 

The HP Byron Nelson Championship played at TPC Las Colinas gives back through golf through its namesake, Bryon Nelson, and the charities the tournament supports. TPC Las Colinas is a par 70 course with water hazards on several holes and a consistent 10 to 15 mile per hour south wind that makes low scoring difficult.  The course is in good condition and plays tough with narrow fairways. It usually takes a score of 12 to 15 under par for four rounds to win. The tournament is a huge success and will draw a large Memorial Day weekend crowd, with great golf on the course and other fun activities like the Pavilion off the course.

 

The HP Byron Nelson Championship supports the Salesmanship Club Charitable Golf of Dallas with funds raised from the golf tournament. In 2008, the Bryon Nelson Championship raised $6.114 million in charitable funds for the Salesmanship Club Youth and Family Centers (SCYFC). The SCYFC is a non-profit organization which provides education and mental health treatment for at-risk children and their families. Last year, 7,000 children in the Dallas area were served due to the funds raised by the Byron Nelson Championship.

 

The Byron Nelson Championship has been supported by Byron Nelson and his wife. Byron has made a huge contribution to golf through his honorable persona as a golfer and simply by being great human being. Throughout the years, Byron has been on the 18th green greeting the golfers as they finish their rounds. I have been fortunate enough to spend time with Byron and his wife on several occasions.  They have a way of making each person feel like a part of the family. Byron is truly a legend on and off the golf course.  This has been exemplified time and time again through his kindness and generosity. When I won the John Deere Classic in 1999 and the 84 Lumber Classic in 2003, Byron sent me a personal hand written note congratulating my performance which I treasure to this day. These notes are classic examples of Byron's tremendous compassion for people.  The game of golf is lucky to have an ambassador like Byron Nelson.  His legacy will live on forever.

 

Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial

 

The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth is a favorite course of the players on the PGA TOUR.  Colonial proves a challenging test of golf. Tree-lined fairways, quick greens, a steady 10 to 15 mile per hour wind, and the river running along the east side of the golf course makes scoring low difficult. Steeped in tradition, the Colonial Country Club has hosted several major golf events other than the Crowne Plaza Invitational.  Colonial is considered the home course of the great golfer Ben Hogan along with Marvin Leonard who helped to make Colonial even more popular.  Ben Hogan won this event several times during his legendary career. Colonial is the perfect course for a ball striker like Hogan who could "thread the needle" with every club in the bag.  The list of winners at Colonial is impressive and not surprisingly includes many major championship winners. 

 

The Colonial golf tournament has raised over $26 million in cash and services for 120 community organizations. Their primary beneficiary is Cook Children's Medical Center. This year the tournament will donate to three main programs: First Tee Kids Caddy, Christina Smile's Dentistry Program, and Birdies for Charity. Christina Smile's Dentistry Program, coordinated by the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Worth, offers free dental care to needy children. They set up a trailer giving dental care to over 200 children during the week of the tournament. The First Tee Kids Caddy program is involved with the tournament's Wednesday Crowne Plaza pro-am, where the children caddy for the PGA TOUR professionals on hole number four, as well as caddying in the Monday Hogan pro-am. The First Tee of Fort Worth started the Kids Caddy program last year. It was a terrific success, and is thoroughly enjoyed by both the pros and the children.

 

The "Texas Swing" is making a difference in the lives of many. A healthy smile, feeding the hungry, educating children in need, and teaching core values like integrity and respect through the First Tee program are great examples of how the "Texas Swing," the PGA TOUR and its fan base are contributing to charities through golf.

 

(1) Texas Open Charities