Posts Tagged ‘American Heart Association’

Would You Work for Nothing?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Celebrating a professional golf tournament would seem to be an unlikely enterprise for a blog generally devoted to writing about seniors, humanitarians and, of course, my kooky neighbor Arnie.  Regardless, we are doing just that this week.

The tournament is the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) first Annual Founders Cup, held this past week in Phoenix.  As the name of the tournament indicates, the event honors the women who founded the LPGA way back in 1950.  The guys had a golf tour.  Why shouldn’t the ladies, they thought.

The founding members did it all back then: planned and organized the golf tournaments, drafted the by-laws, supervised membership, set up the courses and much more. The financial rewards were often nonexistent in the beginning. There was no TV, no lucrative endorsement deals. Dedication to the sport and the LPGA was very much a labor of love for these women.

“You wouldn’t have wanted to have done it, I’ll tell you that,” founder Louise Suggs said. “At that point we didn’t realize it, but it was a lot of work. We were young kids who thought the world was in front of us. We lived out of the trunks of our cars and had to do everything.” They frequently slept five to a hotel room to save money. They caravanned from city to city, and if one car got a flat tire, everybody stopped to help.

“I can’t imagine having to do all of that,” said Karrie Webb,  a friend of Suggs and the winner of this week’s tournament and 36 other events. “We are very fortunate that they did all of that and gave us this platform.”

“When I was young, I looked to the LPGA and that was my dream,” said Yani Tseng, the number one ranked women’s player in the world. “The founders are the reason we have the LPGA. They let us dream.”

This week the current crop of LPGA pros gathered at the Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa to compete in 54 holes of medal play and to honor the people who made their tour possible. (Does this happen in other sports?) Three of the founders were in attendance: Shirley Spork (83) Louise Suggs (88), and Marilynn Smith (82).

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking.  It’s all nice, but so what?

Well here’s the so what. Besides honoring the pioneering seniors who made it all possible, the players in this week’s tournament donated all the prize money to charity, every last dollar of it. $500,000 went to the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf and $500,000 went to the top-10 finishers’ designated charities.

What makes this a very big deal is that these are not flush times for the LPGA. The economic downturn has caused them to lose sponsors and have tournaments cancelled.  TV revenue, so important to the fiscal health of any professional sport, is down as well. That means many fewer bucks in the pockets of LPGA pros over the course of the season. 

Golfers play for money.  That’s how they meet the mortgage payments and feed their families, plus pay their caddies, their airline fares and their hotel bills.  Only this week, nobody played for money.

“I’d be lying as a player if I told you that my initial gut feeling wasn’t, ‘Oh, no, I’m not getting paid,’” Angela Stanford said. “But once you get through that and think of the bigger picture and the cause, then it makes sense. This is a pretty cool way to show how the LPGA can make a difference in a community.”

Winner Carrie Webb designated her winnings 50/50 to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and the Japan Relief Charity. Paula Creamer, Sun Yung Yoo, Sarah Jane Smith and Sandra Gal also designated their shares for Japan relief.  Others designated a variety of worthy charities, including Breast Cancer, Make a Wish Foundation, American Heart Association, Special Olympics, and more.

If you’re good enough to make it to the tour, you’re a competitor.  You go into every tournament thinking you can win. But I suspect that if by the weekend you are 15 strokes back, your goal isn’t to win, but to make next week’s meal money.  These people are the ultimate independent contractors. Not many pro athletes go into a tournament with no hope of winning a nickel. But that’s what every lady who entered this week’s tournament did, all to help others.

The LPGA founding members were Alice Bauer, Patty Berg, Bettye Danoff , Helen Dettweiler, Marlene Bauer Hagge, Helen Hicks, Opal Hill, Betty Jameson, Sally Sessions, Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork,  Louise Suggs and Babe Zaharias.