GREENSBORO, N.C. -- John Faidley's stomach still knots up thinking back to four years ago, in the days and weeks leading up to his very first Celebrity Pro-Am fundraiser. Forsyth Country Club's head golf professional remembers like yesterday saying to his wife, "Well, we've made the commitment. Now we've got to pull this thing off."
Faidley, PGA, and his team have more than "pulled off" the two-day pro-am over the Donald Ross design at Winston-Salem's Forsyth CC, where Faidley has served as head golf professional for 12 years. They have turned the Forsyth Country Club Celebrity Pro-Am — featuring numerous ACC and local sports legends and other celebrities — into the biggest fund-raiser of the year for the First Tee of the Triad, which teaches children about golf while also imparting life lessons.
The now four-year-old event has helped raise nearly $400,000 for First Tee of the Triad. "Without what Forsyth Country Club does with this fund-raiser," says Mike Barber, president and CEO of the First Tee of the Triad, "we wouldn't be able to do what we do."
"There are numerous examples of good deeds being quietly performed by golf professionals around the Carolinas, who use their positions and venues as a springboard for giving back to the game they love," says Ron Schmid, PGA, executive director of the Carolinas PGA (CPGA), the largest of the PGA's 41 sections nationwide.
In 2012, the CPGA raised a record-breaking $515,000 for the Folds of Honor Foundation through various Patriot Golf Day activities — which will again take place this Labor Day Weekend — and the section received the prestigious Freedom Warrior award for those efforts. These are just a few of the many ways the CPGA is helping give back to the game of golf.
Caring, Giving, Golfing
The truth lay in a clubhouse room full of silent auction items and door prizes for the annual Richard L. Byrne Memorial Golf Tournament held each spring at Scotch Meadows Country Club in Laurinburg, N.C.
Oh, there it is, among the golf collectibles table. The sign reads: "Time spent golfing is not deducted from one's lifespan."
That being the case, then all of those participants in this heartwarming two-day charity event are sure to live even longer and more fruitful lives than they are due.
"It's really a huge event," says PGA head golf professional Chip Wells about the tournament, which has raised more than $3 million in donations since its inception 28 years ago. "I don't know of anything/anywhere quite like this in the Carolinas."
Even Wells, who has helped run every Byrne tournament to date, has a hard time comprehending its success. When asked, he recalled this past spring's contributions were in the $135,000 neighborhood.
The event - sponsored by the Eaton Golf Pride Company - actually raised almost $154,000 for a team of experts committed to providing excellent medical care for area patients and families through the Hospice of Scotland County.
"See, it's always bigger than even I can believe," Wells adds when corrected. "It really has become a big event for our community."
Wells became head golf professional at Scotland Meadows in 1985 and a year later Byrne — an employee at Eaton Golf Pride — went to work rounding up sponsors for a charity, fund-raising event. Five or six years into the tournament, Byrne passed away. Still, his legacy lives on in ways he probably never imagined.
"He probably secured $80,000 to $90,000 in sponsor money before we ever hit a golf ball," adds Wells. "It's crazy. Golf Pride's connection with its vendors is one way to make money during the silent auction. It's really a huge event."
The tournament also gets a wealth of support from the Hospice headquarters.
"The donations go to Hospice, and so we get a lot of volunteer help from its office," Wells says. "They also go out and round up sponsors, trips and door prizes."
And, of course, they all do a wonderful job on the days of the actual tournament itself — making everyone's life involved in the event a touch more meaningful.
Back on Track
Greg McBride, PGA golf professional at Northwoods Golf Club in Columbia, S.C., possesses a rather "eclectic" circle of friends and acquaintances.
Some of the more colorful characters include the "Ball Coach" Steve Spurrier from the nearby University of South Carolina, the "Designer" P.B. Dye, and the newest member of McBride's inner circle, PGA Tour player Tommy "Two Gloves" Gaine. But of all the people he runs across in his day-to-day world, it is one of McBride's earliest connections that is buzzing the loudest around the Carolinas these days.
This past year, George Rogers - the University of South Carolina's only Heisman Trophy winner back in 1980 (not counting Spurrier's from 1966 while playing at Florida) - asked him to help tighten up operational components for his George Rogers Celebrity Golf Tournament held at Fort Jackson Golf Club in Columbia.
"Greg stepped in and got it back on track," says Mike Casto, the PGA pro at Fort Jackson Golf Club, who credits McBride for "saving the day" for the tournament.
Though McBride downplays his involvement — recognizing that it takes an army of organizers to pull off such an event — he said he was more than happy to help out with several behind-the-scenes needs like ordering hats and towels; working with vendors; organizing check-in and registration; helping with the pairings; and overseeing other tournament set up niceties like breakfast, balls on the driving range, and tee gifts.
"They all sound like such easy things," says McBride, "but if you are not ready for everything, it doesn't look so good."
With McBride's "Gamecock Pride," the latest George Rogers Tournament must have looked pretty smooth. The tournament, in conjunction with an auction, raises money for the George Rogers Foundation, which provides financial assistance to students, and financial support to Youth Development Nonprofit Organizations in the Carolinas.
You see, McBride, now entering his 23rd year as the head pro at Northwoods (a P.B. Dye design), first met Rogers the year he was a freshman on the golf team at USC and Rogers was carving up defenses as a senior.
"Me being a freshman and he being a senior, we really didn't pal around," says McBride. "But George was best friends with teammate [talented free safety] Robert Perlotte who I knew back in high school. Neither one had a car - so they would borrow mine."
When McBride returned to Columbia as a golf professional in 1990, he rekindled his relationship with Rogers through various golf-related adventures, among them playing in Rogers' celebrity tournament.
But it wasn't until this year that McBride's keen eye for detail really became vital.
"I helped out because [Rogers] is such a nice guy," says McBride. "He does charity things for me and he's just an awesome guy. I've got a golf course and am in the golf business and so I can give something back. I guess you could say I'm just an 'Old Gamecock.' I really just helped him as a friend."
According to McBride, the fact that the event was not held at his home course made his role a lot easier — for both him and Casto.
"Being independent of all the other people made my job pretty easy," says McBride. "That way I could just become a helper and take a little pressure off Mike. It made it easier for both of us the way it was arranged. Mike then could be more of an overseer rather than having to resort to panic attack. That was my focus for both Mike and George - to help them be a little more organized on the golf side of things. Still, everyone did a great job around me too."
For Rogers a properly run tournament means the world — especially one that has been around for moving on a quarter century.
"After I got out of the NFL, I tried to figure out a way that I could give back," says the former New Orleans Saint and Washington Redskin. "I wanted to be able to give money back. So we started playing golf. Through the tournament and the foundation, I've been able to help these kids go to school and that's what it is all about, making sure these kids get an education. Because, you know, if they don't have that education, they have lost."
As McBride likes to put it: "We are Gamecock people."
Refusing to Coast
Teaching golf to kids takes a special individual — one with an intricate blend of knowledge, passion, discipline, a fun loving nature and reflexes to get out of the way of an occasional reckless swing of the club or a wayward golf ball.
As they say in the business: "Always keep your head on a swivel."
Seems to have been the exact mold from which Perry Green was cut.
"I began the PGA apprentice program right out of college after getting a job as second assistant at Rockford (Illinois) Country Club in 1976," says Green. "No one else wanted to run the junior golf program so it was placed in my lap as low man on the totem pole. I loved it and kept myself in charge of junior programs everywhere I went."
Now as the PGA Director of Instruction for Wescott Plantation Golf Club in North Charleston, S.C., Green has seen some of those first students go on to become state high school champions, some go on to play college golf, and more than a dozen go on to become PGA or LPGA teaching professionals all around the country. One of those first juniors even became a community leader in his hometown of Rockford and led an effort to recruit Green back to the Midwest after having migrated south for his first stint in South Carolina. In 2002, he became the Director of Instruction for the Rockford Park District's five golf courses.
One of the ongoing projects at was the creation of a First Tee program — the success of which would eventually lead him back to the Carolina coast.
"Our community leaders raised a lot of money and bought an entire inner city block in a tough area of town, knocked down houses that were known for drug trafficking and built a netted and fence-enclosed green space junior practice facility," says Green. "In coordination with the park district, we revamped one of the driving ranges so it could also serve as a junior golf course and short game practice center.
"I was the first programming director for The First Tee of Greater Rockford from 2003 to 2006. During that time I attended several First Tee coaches training classes around the country. With the Rockford programs expanded and running, I decided to move back to the Charleston area."
And Green, a graduate of Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., where he played both basketball and golf, has been continuing his drive along the Atlantic Coast ever since. In addition to his duties at Wescott Plantation, he is a coach at the First Tee of Greater Charleston where he arranged for his club to become an affiliate site for the program in 2008.
Another accomplishment of his includes the founding of the Charleston chapter of the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf that rapidly grew into the largest in the state from 2007 to 2008. To further illustrate his influence, the Wescott First Tee classes have grown from one class per week with four participants to today where eight classes are offered per week benefiting more than 70 participants.
"The kids learn life skills taught seamlessly with golf skills," says Green.
In early 2014, Green will be attending Level III First Tee coaches training, the last level before the title of Master Coach, the highest level for the First Tee. So the beat goes on for the tireless instructor, whose impact still resonates across two contrasting yet golf-rich portions of the country.
"I began teaching golf to kids because no one else would do it," adds Green, who in 2010 was named the Carolinas PGA Junior Golf Leader along with other accolades. "I've turned it into my life's work. I wouldn't want it any other way."
About the Carolinas PGA Section
Since its inception in 1923, the Carolinas PGA Section has been committed to nurturing and improving the quality of the game for the thousands of golfers using its member facilities. Now the largest of the PGA's 41 sections, the Carolinas PGA Section of the Professional Golfers' Association boasts nearly 1,900 professional members and represents more than 800 golf facilities within North and South Carolina as well as portions of southern Virginia. PGA Professionals are responsible for conducting a variety of golf-related functions which include human resource management, golf shop merchandising, golf instruction, tournament operations, junior golf programs, growth of the game initiatives, golf club repair, administering the rules, public relations, and much more. www.Carolinas.PGA.com
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