WANT TO RUN A MORE SUCCESSFUL
CHARITY GOLF TOURNAMENT?
By Eric Tracy - Published in Southern California Golf Newspaper
- February 2002
year thousands of local charity golf tournaments raise millions
of dollars for wonderful causes. Golf is a fabulous fundraising
vehicle. For the last three months, in an effort to help charity
tournament become more successful, we've presented a series
of reports offering expert advice on key elements of these
events that will help your pending tournament prosper this
year. The series is written by Eric Tracy, KFWB News
980 Sportscaster and golf writer. Tracy supplies our monthly
charity tournament listings which are taken directly from
his website, Charity Golf Online, hosted by kfwb.com, the
award-winning KFWB website. Tracy, also knows as The Mulligan
Man at charity golf tournaments, has played, organized or
served as the Master of Ceremonies at some 300 tournaments.
If you ever play in a Mulligan Man tournament, it's hard to
miss him wearing his wildly colorful knickers and argyle knee
socks. This year, through his sponsors, Tracy will provide
golf prizes to as many as 50 tournaments. These donated items,
when auctioned, will likely raise hundreds of thousands of
dollars for local charities around the Southland. We hope
these articles have been beneficial to you as you make your
tournament plans for 2002. By the way, this series and other
articles are available on Charity Golf Online at www.kfwb.com/charity.
the chairperson of a charity golf tournament that everyone
seems to agree has been fairly successful year after year,
but someone on your committee points out a strange trend:
New players continue to be recruited, but the repeat players
seem to be mysteriously backing out in greater numbers. That
doesn't make sense, right? Every time you've asked your friends
who play every year about their likes and dislikes, all you
get is positive responses. And your friends are coming back,
why not the others? Something's going wrong somewhere. If
only you could figure out why.
Ever thought about actually asking the real golfers themselves
-- not just the ones who you know? Everybody's got an opinion,
but it's finding the right opinions that make a difference.
Last year, I was involved in almost 50 charity events in
Southern California, and I've been involved more than 300
total over the years. Through my meeting and greeting of participants,
I've formed an incredibly large database of golfers who play
in charity golf tournaments. I can even search that list and
find players who we'll call the "frequent fairway flyers.''
There are dozens and dozens of them in my database, from all
kinds of business backgrounds and, more importantly, with
all kinds of opinions.
I came up with my own unscientific poll with four simple
- Why do you play in charity golf tournaments?
- What attracts to you to a specific charity golf tournament?
- What brings you back to a charity golf tournament you
played in the last year?
- What prevents you from returning to a charity golf tournament
you played in?
I offered as many as seven reasons for each question and
had the respondents rank the reasons in order of importance.
Their answers provide interesting insight, but the expanded
responses from some of these players were even more interesting.
Remember, it's not what I think or a professional tournament
coordinator thinks or the committee members think. The golfers
are the ones who are paying the bills and have no axe to grind.
The golfers I talked to actually want to help make events
better since they enjoy participating. They'll be back, but
they'd sure like to do so under better circumstances.
And here's a consensus about what the players think with
the rankings of their answers at the conclusion of this article:
cause or the benefiting charity is a very strong lure for
most of the golfers, especially those who run businesses and
want to further associate themselves with worthwhile events.
Almost equally as important for many is supporting friends
who might be associated with the event or charity. While the
golfers may not play in tournaments specifically for networking
purposes, it doesn't hurt that they meet and greet people
who could be potential clients somewhere down the road, and
will remember them from your tournament. In response to the
question "Are charity tournaments good for business,
Doug Swaim, the general manager of Star Ford in Glendale told
me, "not in the short-run, but there are many footprints
that pay off in the long run," Don Fleming, a long-time
Lexus dealer in Valencia, is another who is very involved
in his community and will support as many in his surrounding
area as possible, both as a player and a sponsor. "I
really believe in the causes, but I know this helps business,''
he said. "We even allot a portion of our advertising
budget to charity events.
those golfers who play in multiple events each year, the course
is not that big a lure. For those who are avid golfers, yes,
this matters. "Especially the courses I normally can't
get on to play,'' said Gonzo Paigen, who loves the game so
much that he named his business Spyglass Insurance. "I'm
competitive and I want to see how I do on these other courses.''
Playing at private clubs used to be a much bigger draw than
it is today because so many high-end/daily fee golf courses
have blossomed. Tournaments no longer have to be limited to
Mondays, traditionally the only day outside play can rent
a private club. In many cases these new public facilities
are better courses and have better clubhouses than their private
Interesting how this really doesn't come into play for many
of the players. When they make a decision to support a cause
or a friend, they pay up. They know going in that it's for
an event intending to raise money, and they're giving a partially
tax deductible contribution. "Unless it's an entry fee
of like $5,000, maybe I wouldn't pay it, but considering everything
your entry fee pays for, it's expected to be a price that
not everyone can afford,'' said Judd Swarzman, an investment
counselor who plays in many PGA Pro-Ams and serves on the
committee for as number of charity tournaments.
This is one of those areas that some tournaments think is
important, but almost universally meant nothing to any of
the golfers I spoke to. If anything the golfers attitude towards
these 'celebrities' was disdain. Quotes like "half the
times you don't even know who these celebrities are"
came up a lot. Unless the celebrities really are the ones
who play at Pebble Beach, the so-called "big names''
do little to draw someone to a tournament. It's amazing that
charities spend so much money to get celebrities yet nobody
in our poll ranked that the reason they play higher than the
4th or 5th out of 5 for choosing to play in a tournament.
Many of these celebrity freeloaders act surly to the paying
customers while playing a free round themselves, then leave
right after golf and never mingle. Who needs them?
must admit this response fooled me. I was of the opinion not
many people really cared about trophies or awards. Guess again.
"Awards are important because they identify the event,
you can keep them out on your desk as a reminder of that event,
and it'll make you want to come back and defend it,'' said
Fleming, who plays in as many as 20 events a year. "Everybody
cherishes something you can keep." Paigen even suggests
the awards be extended so that tournaments have both 'gross'
and 'net' winners. "Why do they ask you to give a handicap
when you enter anyway?'' he wondered. I was right about one
thing. Nobody really cares about traditional trophies. You
know, the brass column kind with the golfer in a full swing
pose, referred to by many in our poll as 'dust collectors'.
Most everyone talked about a nice piece of crystal or other
useful or 'artsy' award and really liked the fact the piece
had a description of the event and their order of finish.
I can't tell you how many golfers indicated they are just
plain tired of 'scramble' events. Charity tournament organizers
pick this format because it's what they did last year and
they've been told that it speeds up play by using the best
ball of all foursome's shots. "I'm always up for a modified
scramble, because I want to play my own ball a lot of the
time after the tee shots,'' said Swarzman. A scramble is very
attractive, however, to female participants. "I get to
play parts of the fairways that I'd normally not see,'' said
Marianne Sfreddo, a CPA who makes the effort to get to as
many events as she can for the enjoyment of the game. Think
this one over before you just do another scramble. There are
When it's there, great. When it isn't ... "I can't stand
some of those boxed lunches,'' said Swaim. "I don't know
why some keep doing that. And sometimes, there aren't any
beverages for half the holes. Play during the summer and you
need soft drinks and water - not just a trashcan full of beer
- on every hole.''
raffle and auction are not among the key reasons people participate
in charity tournaments. However, like most everything in life,
a good raffle and auction are enjoyed. Conversely, "if
you're just going to give away junk, don't bother" said
one golfer who didn't want to be identified. Many do stick
around for this activity after golf, and do so because they
need to. "If I spend the whole day on the course, my
wife won't let me keep doing that unless I bring something
home for her,'' said Paigen. "I also love the auctions
- I wish I could get a list of the items before I go out to
play so I can think about it between holes and figure out
what I want to bid on when I get back. "But if I don't
come home with something from Mary Kay, I probably won't be
allowed to go back out again.''
Do not treat these rankings too lightly. The first and second
most important reasons golfers don't return to charity events
are "poor organization" and golf that lasts 'too
long'. Third on that list is being 'nickel and dimed' at every
turn. Volunteers hawking raffle tickets morning, noon and
night. Others asking for 'buy-ins' for closest-to-the-hole
or "Beat the Pro". The truth is, add up what you
make on these collections and you could easily charge everyone
$20 more in the entry fee, make more money and make more friends.
Besides, as our poll indicates, price isn't that big of a
deal if someone wants to play.
The more I talked with golfers, the more of them I wanted
to talk to. They provided interesting insight and were quite
helpful. Consider this exercise yourself. Not with a flyer
given to every golfer at your tournament that they must fill
out and mail back. Not by calling your friends. But look at
your player lists and call golfers. Maybe someone on your
committee will invest a day or two making calls, but like
most investments, done properly, it will likely pay dividends
in the ultimate success of your event and for the charity
you are raising money.
More than 100 golfers were invited to respond. The answers
to the four questions below were ranked from most important
(1) to least important (5).
WHY DO YOU PLAY IN CHARITY GOLF TOURNAMENTS?
1. Support The Charity or the Cause
2. Support A Friend Involved In The Tournament
3. The Golf Course
4. Entertain Clients
Author's note: Without question people play in charity tournaments
to support a charity or a friend involved with the tournament.
However, when choosing which tournaments to play in golfers
are still lured by a good golf courses.
WHAT ATTRACTS TO YOU TO A SPECIFIC
CHARITY GOLF TOURNAMENT?
1. Support The Charity/Cause
2. The Golf Course
3. Location/Proximity to Work/Home
4. The Price
Author's note: The thinking behind this question was, if
golfers are invited to a number of charity golf tournaments
every year, what factors help them decide which ones they
play. The charity or the cause is still the number one answer,
but the golf course and whether that event supported the golfer's
local community (home and or business) also played a part
in the decision making. Of the golfers we talked to, celebrities
as a draw or a reason golfers chose an event was never more
than the 4th choice out of 5.
WHAT BRINGS YOU BACK TO A CHARITY GOLF
TOURNAMENT YOU PLAYED IN THE NEXT YEAR?
1. Support The Charity/Cause
2. The Golf Course
3. The Golf Experience (skills contests, on-course demos,
4. The Prizes (goodie bag, awards, photos)
5. The Raffle/Auction Items
Author's note: Notice the consistency in the importance of
the cause and the course to golfers. Also notice that the
overall experience is more important then what goes in a goodie
bag, how big the trophy is or how many items are raffled or
auctioned. We kept hearing the same thing, 'quality over quantity'.
WHAT PREVENTS YOU FROM RETURNING TO A CHARITY
GOLF TOURNAMENT YOU PLAYED IN?
1. Poor Organization
2. Golf Took Too Long
3. Being "Nickled and Dimed" (being asked to buy
stuff during the day)
4. The Golf Course
5. Cheap Prizes (goodie bag, awards, photos)
6. Boring Banquet
7. The Price
Author's Note: From the least important to the most, how
much your charge isn't nearly as important as how you pull
off the charity golf tournament you planned. Here's the advice
of golfers: be prepared for your guests, be organized in how
you pull off your event and keep your golf under 5 ½
hours and your "frequent fairway flyer" rate will
go up. In my poll it became fairly obvious the golfers I spoke
with didn't mind shelling out money to support a cause, they
just hate being "nickel and dimed". The bottom line
is that a lot of planning goes into creating a good golfing
experience but too many tournaments fail on the day of the
For more information on running your charity event, contact
Eric Tracy at email@example.com