Read this even if you're not a golfer, please!
by Charlie Leck
Professional golf gets my attention. The Professional Golf Association Tour (PGA Tour) does too. The organization runs television ads that show off the extraordinary skills of these players and closes the ads with the tag line, "These guys are good!"
Unlike the impression we get from most of the leading, well televised professional sports (baseball, basketball and football), where we read regularly of guys getting into deep do-do, golf gives you a picture of players earning big money and giving a lot of it back to help people all over the world. It seems that professional football teams each have a few scandals every year involving serious delinquency on the part of a few of their players. Michael Vick, given 25 million dollar bonus just for signing his contract is only a recent example of such heartless stupidity. Professional basketball will give us a dozen or so explosive acts of misbehavior each year. Baseball is not immune as it, too, provides us with annual blemishes on the character of its players.
Take a look at some of the top ranked players in professional golf, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els. These guys are just examples of what all the super stars in the sport are doing.
Go to the official Phil Mickelson website and you'll find it's all about the charities he and his wife, Amy, support through the foundation they've established. These are not just random organizations. The Mickelson have carefully thought through what they do. Their generosity is enormous and it shows them to be dedicated and concerned citizens of the globe. Though they are extremely diversified in their giving, they put heavy emphasis right now on supporting the troops who return from the war in great need. Phil and Amy give heavily to these programs: Homes for Our Troops; Special Operations Warrior Foundation and America Supports You. Phil has been known to win a purse of a million dollars or more at a professional golf tournament and turn the check back to the sponsor's supporting charity. "These guys are good!"
[Addition of 25 October 2007: We received a kind comment from John Gosalves, the President of Homes for Our Troops. He thanked us for putting a link up to the organization and said that Phil and Amy Mickelson are "simply put wonderful people with big hearts.”]
The big guys all have official web sites. Ernie Els.Com is very well designed. If you visit the site, go right to the page about Ernie's Foundation. Though the emphasis is on golf, the whole point is Ernie's effort to introduce the game to young people who would not otherwise be able to afford to take up the game. A group of players from these people is selected each year to play in a championship against players who come out of the Tiger Woods Learning Center.
Veej, as many of the golfers call him, doesn't have an official web site. One could almost have guessed that. He's more laid back than most of the players and doesn't much like the limelight and notoriety. He's not known to be as generous as many of the players, but he did seed a foundation that bears his name with a 100 thousand dollar start-up gift.
"To whom much is given, much is expected!" Woods earns more money that any athlete on earth. Tiger earned over 10 million dollars in purse money in 2007. It's reported that his endorsements and other ventures brought him in over 100 million. You can go to the home page of the PGA Tour if you want to see what the top ten golfers earned. Mickelson was the second highest earner on the tour and he was 5 million bucks behind Tiger. In addition to the money listed there, Tiger won a 7 million dollar annuity fund for winning the year's FedEX Cup Championship. The player listed 32 on the list still took home more than 2 million dollars in prize money.
Be sure to look at the web site of the Tiger Woods Foundation and that will lead you to the slick, but impressive, 2006 Annual Report of the Tiger Woods Foundation. Together this will give you an idea of just how much Tiger gives and does. The mission of his foundation is to "…empower young people to reach their highest potential by initiating and support community-based programs that promote the health, education and welfare of all of America's children." That sounds ordinary and much like thousands of non-profits around America, but the results this foundation gets are extraordinary. Target Corporation (of Minneapolis) and the Tiger Woods Foundation have teamed up on a fascinating and successful program called Start Something. The idea was that of Tiger's father, Earl Woods, and he capitalized on Tiger's great success to talk Target into cosponsoring this extraordinary concept. The program "dares" kids to start something – something creative, productive and exciting. Scholarships or grants are given to those kids with unique and great ideas, to fund their dream. Some of the stories, like those listed on TWF, will actually bring a tear to your eye – even if you're a big tough guy.
You'll find many golfers who have set up foundations and give very heavily to the work of those foundations. A lot of these guys, like David Toms, Stuart Cink, Mark Calcavecchia and Tom Lehman are legendary for how much they help various charitable endeavors across the nation. "These guys are good!"