Golf fundraisers still finding the green

For many local charities, summer is the season of giving. That’s when dozens of golf tournaments are rolled out to raise money for charities, some of which will take home more than $100,000 when the last putt has dropped and the last longest-drive prize handed out.

For many local charities, summer is the season of giving.

That’s when dozens of golf tournaments are rolled out to raise money for charities, some of which will take home more than $100,000 when the last putt has dropped and the last longest-drive prize handed out.

Innisfail Golf Club manager Darren Black will see about a dozen fundraising tournaments hit his fairways this season.

There are others, like Tuesday’s Alberta Pressure Vessel Manufacturers Association event, which are not strictly fundraising events but provide all proceeds in that case to Calgary’s Alberta Children’s Hospital.

While not recession-proof, golf fundraisers are still providing solid returns for organizations.

Black said while player numbers have been down for some tournaments, organizers have told him that those who did donate signed bigger cheques in many cases.

“Innisfail Minor Hockey was here and the money they raised was way higher.”

The trend, which Black is at a loss to explain, has been good news for charities, which are seeing donations on par with past years.

River Bend Golf Course also hosts a number of tournaments; the 2009 Sutter Fund Charity Golf Classic, and events for RCMP Victim’s Services and Canadian Paraplegic Association are among the biggest.

River Bend general manager Larry Thompson said besides his regular lineup, he also gets occasional calls from other groups looking to add their event. The Red Deer Optimist Club and Walter Gretzky CNIB tournament were newcomers this year.

“That was a new one for them, period,” he said of the tournament hosted by the Great One’s famous father. “They had one in Edmonton and they wanted to sort of piggyback on the thing.”

While the tournaments have generally done well, the recession has been having an impact.

“I wouldn’t say they are recession proof at all. But we have had very good attendance with them.”

Besides the charitable lure, golf tournaments have built-in appeal for many.

“It’s something that a great amount of people do. They usually do a scramble-type (format) thing so you don’t have to be an expert golfer to come in them.”

Many times, companies will bankroll an employee foursome to give staff a day out for a good cause.

Organizing a charity golf event is not a get-rich-quick prospect. “There’s a lot of work involved. There’s a whole pile of work behind the scenes.”

Donna Hateley, managing director of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, hasn’t got a final donation count for their tournament at the Innisfail Golf Club last weekend but it will likely be in the $35,000 range. That is pretty much in line with the past, where the best years hit about $38,000.

“It’s one of our major fundraisers. It’s been pretty good,” said Hateley.

The economic downturn was felt this year. “We didn’t have a full slate (of golfers), which was unusual for us.”

The 17-year tournament has been a consistent performer over its history and popular with donors.

“I think our golf tournament tends to be pretty laid back. It’s a lot of fun.”

Hateley believes a lot of the appeal lies in creating an event that draws a wide variety of people from throughout the province. They even convinced a Tourism, Parks and Recreation Minister Cindy Ady to pull out the clubs.

The benefits of a successful tournament have not been lost on other charitable organizations.

“The competition to get sponsors and get people involved is getting harder each year,” she said. “Businesses in Central Alberta can only support so many. They have to start picking and choosing.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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