Everybody’s hitting hybrids these days. Even Lydia Ko and Mo Martin hit hybrids every chance they get. At a recent charity golf event, one of my playing partners carried hybrids with only a driver, putter, and a sand wedge to round out her set. She shot 74 and won the tournament. I was sold and immediately went out and bought myself two more hybrids. Now I play four hybrids along with my wedges and driver and…I’m playing a lot better.
The first charitable contribution made at a golf event was $10,000 at the Palm Beach Invitational in 1938. Since 1938, the PGA TOUR has partnered with local charities across the country to raise an astounding $2.14 billion. The Waste Management Phoenix Open alone recently announced that it had surpassed $100 million in charitable donations in its history. Unlike other professional sports organizations, the PGA TOUR relies on more than 100,000 volunteers annually to run its tournaments, and the vast majority of its tournaments are structured as non-profit organizations designed to donate 100% of net proceeds to charity.
Arnold Palmer made golf a popular sport for the masses. Before his televised “common man” charisma swept across America in the 50s, golf was largely an elitist “country-club” game. Then Arnold, and later Tiger Woods, captivated the “working-class” sportsman and golf took off. Everybody wanted to play golf, and this trend was not overlooked by corporations. The “golf outing” was born. Planners were called upon to design events that looked like the charitable golf events on the PGA TOUR but rewarded big customers and valuable employees. One-day corporate golf outings replete with tee prizes, hole-in-one prizes, and elaborate banquets with A-list entertainment were cloned from the already successful charity golf events on the PGA TOUR.
Then planners started to hit hybrids. They realized that corporate outings that partnered with local charities had a greater positive impact on employees and customers then simple company “golf tournaments”. Charity golf events sponsored by a corporation are event magic. They tick all the boxes. Customers are happy. Employees are motivated. The community benefits. All corporate goals are met and often exceeded. The event ROI is off the charts.
A HYBRID ON STEROIDS
Let’s take another look at the Waste Management Phoenix Open’s $100 million in charitable contributions. The event was started in 1932 by Bob Goldwater Sr. and the Phoenix Thunderbirds, a prominent civic organization. The Thunderbirds ran the charity event as the Phoenix Open at the Phoenix Country Club until 1987 when the tournament was moved to the TPC, Scottsdale. The investment bank, Friedman Billings Ramsey became the first corporate sponsor of the Phoenix Open in 2003, followed by Waste Management, its current sponsor.
This new hybrid form of charity event sponsored by a corporation has built the Phoenix Open into the best attended golf event in the world. In 2016, it set a PGA TOUR single day attendance record with 201,003 fans in attendance on Saturday and set a golf tournament attendance record of 618,365 fans.
The magic is in the chemistry of the Thunderbirds’ civic minded zeal and Waste Management’s corporate objectives. If you’re planning to run a golf tournament for your customers and employees, think about partnering with a local charitable organization. If you’re trying to organize a golf tournament to benefit a community or a nonprofit, find a corporate sponsor who’s interested in your cause. The resulting hybrid will exceed your wildest expectations.