LAKE TOXAWAY, N.C. -- Located in the heart of western North Carolina, Lake Toxaway sprawls across 640 acres making it the state's largest privately owned lake. Just off its picturesque shoreline is a private golf club that serves as the social center for the surrounding community.
"Big" is nothing unusual to the residents and members of Lake Toxaway Country Club. But as is the case in most tranquil mountain getaways, "rapid change" can be a bit more out of character — akin to tempting Mother Nature.
Still, the combination of big and bold — and really fast — is what the residents of Lake Toxaway got one fateful day in 2011 when one of its well-established members walked into the pro shop and asked a not-so-simple question.
Jim Dockter, a retired businessman, as well as an Army Officer and Vietnam Veteran originally from Louisville, Ky., wanted to know how he could help energize the annual Patriot Golf Day at his beloved club.
"Prior to that, we were just like any other golf club," recalls Lake Toxaway Country Club Director of Golf Lou Biago (PGA). "We were collecting about $3 to $5 thousand a year in donations from [Patriot Golf Day.]"
Having spoken with many of his fellow military Veterans in the community, Dockter wanted to gauge the club's opinion on expanding the "Patriot Golf Day" activities to create more of a family atmosphere for it over the normally slow Labor Day Weekend at Lake Toxaway.
The support from the Lake Toxaway golf staff and community association was overwhelming. "Go for it!" was the universal reply.
Enter the "Good Dockter," as the chairperson is sometimes called. Within a year of Dockter taking the reigns, Lake Toxaway's event went from a one-day "Patriot Golf Day" to a three-day "Patriot Golf Weekend." Suddenly, donations for the Folds of Honor Foundation skyrocketed to $110,000 in 2012, its first year, then up to $155,000 in 2013.
The results have been big, grand, meteoric and heartwarming — all in one big bundle.
"It's been a rapid, huge success," says Biago. "Jim really went out and got everybody on board. He's made it a successful event and for such a great cause."
Dockter retired after founding and selling a 35-year-old logistics and fulfillment company in Atlanta to his three sons and the company CFO. He purchased a summer home in Lake Toxaway in 2006.
Prior to Labor Day Weekend 2011, Dockter was playing at another club that was promoting "Patriot Golf Day." Having not heard about the "Folds of Honor Foundation" and the scholarships that were awarded to families of Veterans, he made a donation and said he didn't think about it again until two weeks later, when Lake Toxaway Country Club held "Patriot Golf Day" on Saturday morning.
Inspired by good friends in Atlanta who had lost their son in Iraq, Dockter was soon making his way to the clubhouse.
"To form a great 'team' of men and women, lay out a plan, create a fun, memorable experience, honor our Veterans and raise funds for a worthy cause," he says.
So Dockter along with his wife of 47 years, Becky, and "some of the nicest members I have ever known" began the Lake Toxaway Patriot Golf Weekend in 2012.
The rest, as they say, is history.
It is now a full weekend of activities enhancing "Patriot Golf Day," the flagship fundraiser for the Folds of Honor Foundation (foldsofhonor.org). The non-profit organization provides post-secondary scholarships for children and spouses of military men and women killed in action or disabled while serving the nation.
The Lake Toxaway community is ideal for such an event. It has about 750 homes offering its members and their guests casual and fine dining in four locations, a championship golf course and 20-acre golf learning center, five tennis courts, world-class croquet facilities, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and an outdoor swimming pool. Lake Toxaway's Patriot Golf Weekend utilizes all of these facilities to the fullest.
The 25-person committee that was created runs a Friday boat tie-up, a Saturday morning golf tournament with lunch, a Saturday evening dinner and dance with a large patriotic band, children golf and tennis lessons, kayaking on the lake, a dam-to-dam swim, a putting contest, a tennis team round-robin, a croquet fun-and-games event, painting for Patriots and kids, and family, food and music by two groups on Sunday night.
Major Dan Rooney, an F-16 pilot, who served three tours in Iraq, as well as PGA golf professional, started the inaugural "Patriot Golf Day" in 2007. Today, it is celebrated at over 4,500 golf facilities across the nation. With the assistance of the PGA of America, the USGA and other major sponsors, the FoHF has raised more than $20 million, resulting in more than 4,000 scholarships.
Most courses - like Lake Toxaway did in the first handful of years — keep things fairly standard.
"Basically, you would go out and ask for a little donation from members playing that day," adds Biago. "Now we have everything going on, from canoe races to face painting. The community is really behind it. It's a big undertaking — one that is a lot easier to make happen when a member goes out and solicits involvement from the community."
According to Biago, Lake Toxaway's unique setting has allowed the event to take off to record-setting proportions. In fact, in the most recent event held at Lake Toxaway, Major Ed Pulido, the senior vice president of the Folds of Honor Foundation, presented Dockter, his committee, the club and the community with the prestigious "Freedom Warrior Award" as the No. 1 Play Golf America event held over the Labor Day weekend initiative.
"Being a summer community, this is a very influential place with a number of veterans from several wars," says Biago. "These people are so generous and giving especially when it comes to such great and meaningful causes. I couldn't be more proud being their golf professional."
And having seen firsthand the wonders Dockter and his team have been able to infuse, Biago is notably impressed.
"So here we are," he concludes. "Now it's one big party here. It's all good."
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
Martin Armes, 919-608-7260, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brad King, 336-306-9219, email@example.com