A person tees off at Golden Eagle Golf Club recently. (Colleen Flanagan-THE NEWS)

Charity tournaments remain a no-go for Pitt Meadows golf clubs

Demand for golf is “through the roof”

Charitable foundations have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Annual galas have been cancelled along with dinners, walks and runs as organizations turn to the virtual world to raise much needed money for their causes.

The opening of golf courses across the province offered a glimmer of hope that fundraising campaigns could begin again out on the links as the sport affords space to safely socially distance from one another.

However this is not the case.

Charity tournaments don’t make a whole lot of money on people playing golf, explained Michael Shearme, tournament coordinator with Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows.

“They make their money on selling sponsorships for the holes – title sponsors, dinner sponsors, cart sponsors, anything that they can sponsor, that’s how they make their money on it,” said Shearme.

But having sponsors adds even more people to the golf course and added touch points for both staff and players.

Lorae Brickwood, director of sales and marketing with Golden Eagle Golf Club, also in Pitt Meadows, will not provide on-course vendors or sponsors for this reason.

Anytime there is a vendor, she said, they bring three or four of their staff along with a few volunteers who will be running things. Now there is a table and chair that staff at the golf course have to put out.

“Those are all multiple touch points,” said Brickwood.

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A lot of donors will also sponsor the KP or closest to the pin, a spike that is placed in the middle of the fairway.

“You could have 144 people touching that pin and that’s the reason why we eliminated that,” said Brickwood.

Another obstacle for tournaments is the shot gun start. This is where everybody goes out onto the empty golf course and starts at the same time when a horn is blasted.

The issue is everybody arrives at the course at once.

Currently both Meadow Gardens and Golden Eagle only offer consecutive tee times, where small groups go out onto the course one at a time, in order to avoid large gatherings of people.

Tournaments also make a lot of their money from the evening banquets where a silent or a live auction will be typically held, added Shearme.

But restrictions on gatherings have eliminated the ability of golf courses to hold the big banquet dinners that would normally have more than 100 attendees.

And, even if charities could get around the 50 person limit on gatherings, Shearme said, they are still putting their tournaments on hold because they don’t feel right about going to the community and their sponsors and asking for money.

RELATED: All golf courses in the province should be closed to prevent virus spreading, British Columbia Golf says

“Knowing full well that those companies and their community might be hurting at the moment,” he said.

Instead they are happily holding off until 2021.

Last year there were more than 20 big golf tournaments held at Meadows Gardens and about 25 at Golden Eagle.

This year there have been none at either course.

Shearme has had a few small ones where players throw money into a pot and a group of golfers who held a food drive.

Brickwood has one big one lined up as a maybe. But, she said, the organization has been holding tournaments for about 20 years and have corporate sponsorship behind them.

There are creative ways to hold a golf tournament, noted Brickwood, such as live action leaderboard scoring on an iPad.

Each time players enter their scores there can be digital advertising from sponsors and the ability to bid on a live auction.

“This is how we’ve been able to bring in community and connectivity to the tournament without touching or being together,” continued Brickwood.

However,she has advised all others who have approached her that they hold off until next year.

“First annuals are really hard to get off the ground and without that corporate sponsorship and companies knowing what they are going to be getting, it’s a tough sell,” she noted.

Even though both courses have lost all of their big charity tournaments, they both report a surge in demand for golf.

“Golf, in general, is through the roof. It’s way up,” because, Shearme said, it’s safe for people.

Shearme feels restrictions on banquets is the biggest holdup for fundraisers.

“For instance, if we’re just going tee times where people are starting every nine minutes apart, I can do a group of 100 people no problem because they are never here all at once. They are never truly a group,” he said.

They just can’t host everyone at once for dinner.

He is optimistic, though, that one day soon, it will return to normal.



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