Operating for 34 years, the RBC Dominion Securities Children’s Golf Classic has raised more than $6.2 million for our local Children’s Hospital Foundation.
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Original article: https://londonontariosports.com/golf/reed-on-the-greens/childrens-golf-classic-template-for-success/
Reed On The Greens November 12, 2023
Fighting For Dollars, Children’s Golf Classic Stands Alone
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioGolf.com
Competing for charity golf dollars, especially in our local market which boasts more golf courses, per capita, than anywhere else in Canada, is as competitive as a million-dollar skins game. But since the COVID-19 pandemic, the game has changed.
While golf’s governing bodies, including Golf Canada, continue to report record numbers of rounds played since the pandemic, locally, at least, charity golf tournaments have suffered – and that means fewer dollars into the coffers of local not-for-profit groups.
In fact, the template of the typical charity golf fundraiser has become a tired one, with registration, breakfast muffin and coffee, tiresome six-hour round with on-course side games, cocktails, dinner and auction. That’s not a knock against trying to raise money for charity, but it does beg for change. For decades, it has been estimated by the Southwestern Ontario golf industry that about 350 charity golf tournaments had filled the annual calendar. But those surveyed by LondonOntarioGolf.com say since the pandemic and including a suffering economy, that number has been cut by about 40 per cent, seeing only about 200 such tournaments locally.
And as an added slap in the face, most charity golf tournaments do not last past the first year. It takes a hard-working, business-connected committee who work year-round to make the event an annual success.
London is host to a handful of long-running, successful charity golf tournaments, including the Lexus of London Golf Classic for Prostate Cancer, which celebrated its 21st year in 2023, and the Make-A-Wish Golf Classic which ran for a 28th season this summer. Both have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for their causes.
The most successful local charity golf event, operating since 1990, is the RBC Dominion Securities Children’s Golf Classic for our local Children’s Hospital Foundation. Chaired by RBC Dominion Securities’ Vito Finucci, who has been instrumental in the event’s success since day one, the Children’s Golf Classic has raised more than $6.2 million during its 34-year run.
That dollar figure, and the hard work put in by the tournament committee, are both monumental feats in this competitive market. Consider this: the 2020 London and Area Golf Survey – the most comprehensive local golf industry survey ever produced and counting almost 1,600 participants – reported that 35 per cent of respondents said they do not participate in any local charity golf events, while 31 per cent said they partake in only one charity tournament per year. You can read the entire survey summary here.
Yet Finucci and his team have managed to not only survive, but thrive, when most other charity golf functions don’t last two years.
These are tough economic times, yet the Children’s Golf Classic saw its fourth-best year in 2023 with $421,000 raised through its successful cocktail night – this year drawing 300 attendees – and its first-rate golf tournament, again held at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club.
With Canadian golf legend Mike Weir heavily involved in 2007 and again in 2016, those years produced $562,000 and $504,000 respectively. In 2014, thanks to golf commentator David Feherty’s involvement, the event raised $510,000.
“We are blessed with fabulous supporters, donors and sponsors,” said Finucci, who plans to stick around at least for a few more years before passing the torch to another chair. “We again sold out this year with a field of 144 golfers – 152, in fact, with two extra foursomes. “The cause – Children’s Hospital – has been a big reason for our success,” added Finucci, “and every dollar raised stays here in London for the local hospital. There are so many worthwhile causes and charities, but I think there’s something about a sick kid that tugs at people’s hearts and generosity.”
The Children’s Golf Classic began at West Haven Golf and Country Club before moving to Sunningdale in 1999. With the club embracing the event, its format and its charity of choice, a perfect partnership was created. RBC Dominion Securities picked up the ball as title sponsor after RBC carried the flag for a quarter century.
In a recent study, the National Allied Golf Associations (NAGA) estimated that there are about 37,000 charitable golf events hosted at Canadian golf clubs. NAGA’s member groups – Golf Canada, National Golf Course Owners Association, Canadian Society of Club Managers, PGA of Canada, Canadian Golf Industry Association and Canadian Golf Superintendents Association – estimate those events raise more than $533 million annually for charity.
From small family-and-friend outings to mega fundraisers including local hospital foundations, there is fierce competition for the local charity golf dollar. And with countless causes competing for those dollars via social media platforms, it takes an entire team working 12 months of the year in order to operate a successful golf fundraiser.
“I think the golf tournament as a charity fundraiser has run its course, but we’ve been blessed to have a core group of golfers, donors and sponsors who, year after year, step up,” Finucci said candidly. “Even through the pandemic, we were able to put up some great (fundraising) numbers. I’m proud to be associated with this group.
“We were the first to introduce a cocktail night, the night before a tournament. We’ve also tried to be innovative, for example bringing in a big tent when Weir participated. But we can contribute much of our success to a committed group of volunteers, great support from the Foundation, in addition to golfers, sponsors and donors.”
Every group scrambling for dollars in the local charity golf game relies on a good old-fashioned work ethic, a good cause and a fun time for its golfers and supporters. It’s survival of the fittest. And with times only getting tougher for local not-for-profits wishing to use golf as revenue and awareness source, it would do them well to focus on the Children’s Hospital Foundation template as a blueprint for success – no matter what the size of the fundraiser.
Jeffrey Reed has promoted the local golf industry as a broadcast, print and new media journalist since 1980. A multiple writing award winner from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada, Reed is author of the 2018-published book, The Canadian Seniors’ Golf Association, Celebrating 100 Years of Seniors Golf 1918-2018, now housed in the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum library. A London Sports Hall of Fame nominee, Reed – through LondonOntarioGolf.com – presents the annual Heart Award (est. 2011) to a member of the Southwestern Ontario golf industry who gives back to and helps grow the game of golf. Mike Weir won the Heart Award in 2014. Reach Jeffrey at email@example.com.