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Teeing it up for Local Charities

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Story by Darrell Denton

The greens are slick, the fairways are hardening, and the rough is getting rougher. It’s early spring and it’s a perfect day for skiing, er, hockey, errr, golf. The disappearance of the snowpack from the North Shore mountains is eagerly anticipated by many Lower Mainlanders as it signals the arrival of the golf season and the early openings of their favorite courses. With its temperate climate, BC prides itself as being the only Canadian province where die-hard golfers can truly play the game year-round, readily accepting the less-than-perfect course conditions that open the door to various interesting interpretations of ‘winter rules’.

BC is not only home to some of the finest year-round golfing venues in North America, it also boasts a strong commitment to the game with nearly 800,000 avid golfers of all ages (equivalent to twenty percent of the province’s population) devoted to the sport. The game of golf functions as a significant revenue generator for a myriad of charities and not-for-profit organizations across North America. At the professional level, lies the PGA TOUR Inc., which administers the PGA TOUR, the Champions Tour, and the Nationwide golf tournaments, all of them registered charitable ventures. Net proceeds from professional golf events are channeled back into both high-profile national, and local market charities.

For the past ten years, and owing greatly to the rise in popularity of the game and its superstars, the PGA has increased its annual charitable giving from $31 million dollars in 1993, to roughly $83 million dollars in 2003, and the PGA expects that by the year 2006 it will reach the $1 billion threshold in total dollars raised for charity. At a local level, from 1996-2002, the PGA TOUR’s Air Canada Championship generated in excess of $4.3 million dollars for Lower Mainland charities, with Canuck Place serving as the primary beneficiary.

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Given its extended season, the BC charity golf tournament schedule begins in early May and runs though until late September at a variety of local golf courses. During any given week, a tournament of some stature is being played out, with handicaps carefully calculated, and each foursome pining for the low net score and the top tee-gift package. Heavyweights of the local charity industry include the Forget-Me-Not tournament (Alzheimer Society), Big Brothers Whistler Classic, the Lions Gate Hospital Foundation Classic and the Ronald McDonald House Tournament. Together, these four tournaments generated in excess of $1 million dollars for their respective causes.

The game of golf and its association with the corporate world and charities has long been a natural one, and with BCs plentiful venues and long golf season, ‘competition’ to host tournaments is big business for many of the top courses. The tournaments themselves provide WIN-WIN-WIN occasions for the charities, the participants, and the golf courses themselves. The tournaments act as virtual ambassadors to the courses they are played on by offering course managers and professionals the opportunity to showcase their respective facilities and services. Charities benefit directly from the revenue raised, as well as bringing increased awareness to their cause, while the corporate participants often use the events as forums for conducting business and building more effective relationships with their clients.

Westwood Plateau Golf & Country Club, located in Coquitlam, serves as an excellent example of one local golf course committed to tournament excellence, hosting in excess of one hundred charity and corporate golf outings from May to October each year. The rounds of golf generated by these events account for more than half of all rounds played at the course each season. High profile charity events the course hosts include; Crime Stoppers Golf Classic, Ronald McDonald House Golf Invitational, Coast Hotels Heart and Hope Charity Classic, World Partnership Golf, BC Lions / Make-A-Wish Foundation, Arts Umbrella/Globe & Mail Charity Invitational, FIFI/BC Cancer Society, among many others. Collectively in 2004, tournaments hosted by Westwood Plateau generated roughly $1 million dollars for charities in the BC marketplace and nationally.

According to Scott Masse, Golf Operations Manager for Westwood Plateau, the award-winning venue has experienced significant growth in tournament rounds of golf over the past three years. From 2002 to 2004, annual tournament rounds have increased by 54 percent. Masse attributes Westwood Plateau’s success to a number of factors, not the least of which is that the golf course sits in a picturesque mountain location featuring breathtaking views, majestic Douglas firs, massive granite rock faces, rugged ravines, and edge-of-world green sites not readily viewed elsewhere.

It augments this unique golf experience with a style of service, hospitality, and culinary delights rarely found in the Lower Mainland marketplace. This combination of factors ensures that guests enjoy a memorable and entertaining day of golf regardless of their final score.

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Masse believes that the single biggest mistake made by tournament organizers is often failing to make their event entertaining and, more importantly, standout from the many other charity events that are hosted in the Lower Mainland each year. To address this problem, Westwood Plateau created a ‘Guide to Great Golfing Events’ that serves to assist organizers in making the world’s most popular game work for their charity or business.

The guide includes, easy to use checklists for organizational needs, a detailed event planner, creative ideas for improving their client’s events and making them unique, as well as additional insights into effective on course fundraising tactics. Westwood Plateau provides this tool to anyone who requests it, even those who choose to host their event at one of the many other fine facilities in Vancouver. While the rules and game of golf remain relatively static, the business of golf is constantly evolving.

With the increasing level of competition between courses for business, both individual course managers and tournament organizers continue to seek innovative ways in which to keep their tournaments fresh and entertaining for their guests. As the local fairways and greens awake from their albeit short winter respite, as evidenced by this year’s sunshine and warm temperatures, 2005 is shaping up to be yet another in a long series of great years for golf and charity golf tournaments in British Columbia. (Note: To request a copy of Westwood Plateau’s ‘Guide to Great Golfing Events’ visit or contact Scott Masse at 604.552.5161.)

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