Unifying and Inspiring
by Chuah Choo Chiang / Images: PGA Tour
Jay Monahan serving food at the Sulzbacher Center in Jacksonville on March 14
The Cambridge dictionary describes golf as follows: “A game played outside on grass in which each player tries to hit a small ball into a series of nine or 18 small holes, using a long, thin stick.”
On the PGA TOUR, the Royal and Ancient game is defined slightly differently.
Amidst a global pandemic caused by the coronavirus COVID-19, which has temporarily shut down all major sports and leagues, PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan has stepped up to be counted in mitigating an international crisis that has hurt the world’s economy, sport not withstanding.
When Monahan announced the cancellation of the TOUR’s flagship tournament, THE PLAYERS Championship, followed by further cancellations and postponements of competitions until at least mid-May, he faced adversity and uncertainty head-on and rallied the sport by providing a clear sense of purpose as to what golf truly means. “I’m a fighter. I want to fight for our players and our fans and for this TOUR to show how golf can unify and inspire,” he said.
It is apparent that golf is not merely a sport or a business for Monahan. He sees it as a game that brings people together for worthy causes and capable of inspiring good deeds as dictated by the TOUR’s heart for charity. Yes, the PGA TOUR entertains fans across the world through its superstars who possess amazing skills, talent and personality, but giving back to communities has always been and will always be the TOUR’s DNA.
In halting tournaments, the wellbeing of players, fans and staff members were of great concern, but deep down in Monahan’s soul, he holds all charities, which are so dependent on the TOUR’s benevolence, probably the closest to him.
Last year, the PGA TOUR’s all-time charitable total surpassed US$3 billion following a record US$204.3 million generated throughout 2019. It impacts lives positively across the communities where the PGA TOUR, the PGA TOUR Champions, the Korn Ferry Tour, the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada, the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and the PGA TOUR Series-China have the privilege of staging tournaments annually.
Barely 24 hours after the enforced shutdown, Monahan, along with 30 other staff members, rolled up their sleeves and sprang into action in downtown Jacksonville to serve meals at a homeless shelter with food that was prepared for an expected 200,000 fans. The TOUR and THE PLAYERS Championship have for long partnered with Feeding Northeast Florida and on this occasion helped provide 22 tons of food, valued at nearly US$700,000, to serve and support families in need.
Billy Horschel helping with the food delivery on March 14
Monahan’s actions inspired Billy Horschel, the 2014 FedExCup Champion, into his own act of kindness. Horschel donated US$20,000 of the US$52,000 he received with the cancellation of THE PLAYERS to Feeding Northeast Florida and also helped serve food to the less privileged.
The five-time PGA TOUR winner had initially pledged US$1,000 for every birdie and US$5,000 for every eagle that he might make during THE PLAYERS to Feeding Northeast Florida, a community food bank that connects millions of pounds of rescued food to a network of over 150 social service agencies and programmes.
Horschel’s good deed was very quickly followed up by England’s Matt Wallace, who pledged US$18,200 to Blessings in a Backpack, another local charity that would usually benefit from THE PLAYERS.
Days later, Brooks Koepka announced a US$100,000 contribution through his own foundation to the Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, saying on Twitter: “I know these are hard times and we have so much uncertainty around us. I’m thinking of everyone who is being impacted by this pandemic. I want to do my part to help during this stressful time.”
Horschel believes that support from the golf fraternity will ease people’s burdens. “Playing golf is great, I love it, and we’re privileged in what we do, but the bigger thing is what THE PLAYERS Championship does for the community. To know that all the food that was going to be used here is going to a great cause in Feeding Northeast Florida and helping to feed the people who are food insecure is just goosebumps,” he said.
If golf shots are not being struck anywhere on the PGA TOUR over the next couple of months, Monahan hopes further acts of kindness will go a long way in bringing smiles back onto people’s faces.
“Our focus is going to be with our players on how we use this period to inspire the communities where we won't be playing, inspire when we get back in when we're playing, and make sure we use the strength of this organisation to do good here and ultimately get back to this unbelievable platform that we have that's going to get stronger as we go through this challenge,” said Monahan.
Perhaps when this storm passes, it would be appropriate to update the meaning of golf to one that indicates its power and ability to unify and inspire people associated with this great game.