A $50 Million Milestone
USGA Fulfills First Grant-Making Benchmark
April 18, 2006
Ten years ago, the United States Golf Association made history by continuing to do what it has done since its founding in 1894: to work for the good of the game . What made 1996 different was the new way in which the USGA would accomplish that mission.
The story began in 1965 when Gary Player donated $25,000 of his U.S. Open winnings to the USGA with the instruction that the money be used to support junior golf in the . With this donation and others, the USGA Foundation was established. While it supported many programs within the golf world through grants, its focus on junior golf was limited. That focus changed in 1996 when the USGA Executive Committee, led by President Judy Bell, made the commitment to expand the USGA's grant-making, with an emphasis on junior golf, and to develop a USGA Fellowship to help with grant administration.
The first meeting of the USGA Grants Committee occurred in December 1996 in a conference room at O'Hare Airport. Dr. Trey Holland (USGA President, 2000-2001) led the way as the Committee reviewed 33 grant applications. The following spring, four recent college graduates were selected as the first class of USGA Fellowship in Leadership and Service. The Fellowship, which will soon welcome its 10 th class, enables Fellows to grow personally and professionally during their tenure as staff of the Grants Initiative.
The Grants Committee, along with the first class of Fellows and other staff members, was charged with developing a specific plan for how to expand the USGA's grant-making efforts.
A year of planning by that first Grants team came to fruition in October 1997 when the USGA Executive Committee announced its commitment of $50 million to the new Grants Initiative, to be distributed over the following 10 years.
These funds were to be awarded to programs that bring the game of golf to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to play, specifically, economically-disadvantaged kids, minority youth, girls, and individuals with disabilities.
During the most recent meeting of the Grants Committee in April, the Grants Initiative surpassed its initial $50 million commitment.
"The results over this 10-year period have been more than I could have dreamed about, hoped for, or even imagined," said Judy Bell, who now serves as Consulting Director for Grants & Fellowship. "It's so good to see the game of golf opened up to anyone who wants to play."
Bell also reflected on the growth of the USGA Fellowship. "The Fellowship has been a remarkable resource for the USGA," she said. "While Fellows are paid, the Fellowship is more than a job to them. They are committed to the mission of this Initiative and are truly passionate about helping others. The USGA is happy to be developing the next generation of community leaders."
With its most recent round of grant awards, the USGA has now supported more than 800 organizations through more than 1,900 grants.
The effects of the $50 million have been felt in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is estimated that over the past nine years, the programs supported by these grant dollars have reached nearly two million participants. If the participant's families were counted, as well as instructors and mentors, the number benefited by the USGA Grants Initiative grows tremendously.
"If these kids have learned anything that will make them better citizens, whether its honesty, integrity, or any of the values learned from the game, then this program has been successful," Holland said. "Everyone benefits from that."
The USGA is quick to recognize that reaching this milestone would not have been possible without the help of others.
"To reach all of these participants, the USGA relies on well-organized non-profit organizations and the dedicated leaders who run them and bring golf programming to their constituents," said Walter Driver, USGA President. "We call these leaders local champions and through their hard work and passion they turn grant dollars into activities that make a difference in peoples' lives."
One such local champion is , , Executive Director of the Mid-South Junior Golf Association (The First Tee of Memphis), and former director of the National Golf Course Owners Association.
, whose organization has received several USGA grants, expressed his opinion about the significance of the Grants Initiative. "The Grants Initiative made the USGA the first major golf organization to get on the track of ensuring golf's future by developing golfers," he said. "It opened up the floodgates to a new way of thinking - that golfers are not just one type of person.
"The Grants Initiative develops golfers in every genre, whether it's a junior golfer, a female golfer, or a golfer with a physical disability."
For some organizations, USGA funding has played an instrumental role in starting new programs.
, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Golf Association Foundation shared how USGA funding enabled the Association to build the Foundation's The First Tee (TFT) chapters.
"In 2001, we were really struggling to find places to start chapters and develop facilities," said Mottola. "Today, in 2006, we hope to have five The First Tee facilities in place. We couldn't have achieved that without USGA support."
For many other organizations, USGA support has been a catalyst for growth.
"We started the program in 1998 and now have more than 400 children with disabilities involved with golf," said Dana Dempsey, Director of Therapeutic Recreation and Child Life at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, located in Dallas. "It was the USGA's support that really helped the program to grow."
The same holds true for Marty Remmell, Executive Director of Pro Kids, Inc., in San Diego, which received a grant to assist with costs of renovating its home facility, Colina Park Golf Course.
"Because of the generous donations that we've received, we have been able to grow our program from 60 children in 1994, to now more than 2,000 kids annually," said Remmell. "The grant for the [course] renovation has helped us to become a well-regarded short-game course for the public as well. Not only are we getting more children on the golf course but also more adult and family play."
Likewise, Mottola attributes the growth of the MGA Foundation's GOLFWORKS internship program to USGA support.
"In 1994, we had 12 kids at six clubs," he said. "Today, we have more than 200 kids working at more than 80 clubs."
For many programs, a USGA grant has served as a catalyst for unlocking other avenues of support.
"When we received the first grant [in 2001], it triggered support from others in our community," said Alfonso. "We were able to point to the USGA grants as truly credible national support for our local program. I feel like it made all the difference in the world to other donors."
While the USGA is celebrating reaching the $50 million milestone, it knows that its work is far from over.
"One key is to support local champions at the grass-roots level who believe that learning to play golf can change lives. This is why affordable access to the game is paramount," said James T. Bunch, chairman of the USGA Grants Committee.
To assist with that goal, in 2004, under the direction of former President Reed MacKenzie, the Executive Committee committed an additional $15 million to the Grants Initiative.
If you would like more information about the Grants Initiative or Fellowship Program, please contactat719- 471-4810 ext. 28or lerdman@ usga.org.