PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - A year after its formal creation, the Honda Classic Cares initiative continues to raise awareness of the charity endeavors of Palm Beach County's largest sporting event and the true Honda Classic mission of giving back to the children of the community.
The best golfers in the world will descend upon PGA National Resort & Spa February 22-28 to play for $6.1 million and the Honda Classic's Waterford Trophy that annually goes to the tournament champion.
But the story behind the story will be the tournament's quest to set a record for charitable giving for the 10th straight year since the event moved to PGA National under the guidance of Children's Healthcare Charity.
Not even 50 mile-per-hour winds and torrential rains that washed out play on Saturday and forced a Monday finish could keep the 2015 Honda from maintaining that record streak. The tournament awarded $2.555 million in charitable contributions, about $27,000 more than the previous record of $2.528 million established in 2014.
The charitable giving in 2015 directly impacted the lives of approximately 15,000 children.
And this time it was accomplished despite the major expense of cleaning the golf course after Saturday storms and opening for an extra day on Monday when admission was free and Padraig Harrington defeated upstart Daniel Berger in a playoff. The hope is for better weather in 2016 that will allow the tournament to continue to elevate the impact it makes on the lives of children.
"We couldn't be more thrilled that we were able to sustain a pattern of growth despite all of the challenges that we encountered last year," Honda Classic Executive Director Kenneth R. Kennerly said. "The support we continue to receive from our sponsors and partners is sensational. That's why The Honda Classic is able to remain one of the elite events on the PGA TOUR and why through Honda Classic Cares we are able to make such a significant impact in our community."
The Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation continues to be the tournament's primary beneficiary. But the initiatives evolving from that giving also range from contributing to the state-of-the-art Els Center for Excellence for autistic children in Jupiter to creating the Honda Classic Cottage for kids who have aged out of foster care at the Village of Hope campus in Lake Park. The Honda Classic sponsors a new playroom and fitness center that is part of the Quantum House expansion, helps purchase classroom equipment at The ARC of Palm Beach County for kids with developmental disabilities and supports educational opportunities for low-income students through the Tiger Woods Foundation.
An additional 90 charities received proceeds from the American Honda Birdies for Children program, where fans donate for the chance to guess the number of birdies in the tournament. American Honda awards a new Honda Civic to the winner.
"A lot of people don't realize that golf tournaments are for charity, but the ultimate goal is to positively impact youth in need and help them create a brighter future," said Michele Jacobs, Chair of the Honda Classic's Grants Committee which screens applications and selects the benefitting charities. "The Honda Classic Cares umbrella allows us to talk to our community about giving and get more involved with the charities that we serve.
"We are constantly looking to raise the bar. We have set our goals high in 2016 to exceed the $2.55 million we awarded in 2015 and we are hoping by 2020 that we can get to $5 million and really make a dramatic impact in our local community."
Charities have several different mediums to benefit from The Honda Classic. The easiest and most popular is the Birdies for Children Program. The application process is simple. Charities sell $20 tickets where people guess the number of birdies in the tournament. The charity receives 100% of the proceeds plus a 10% matching contribution courtesy of The Honda Classic. The winner receives a new Honda car.
Charities seeking larger grants for projects go through an application process. The Honda awarded grants to 44 different local charitable organizations in 2015.
"The fact that we accomplished our goal despite the problems we experienced with the weather is a true testament to the relationship that The Honda Classic has built with Palm Beach County and its surrounding areas," said Joe Steranka, President of Children's Healthcare Charity, Inc. "We look forward to additional growth in the future as we continue to expand upon the number of children whose lives we are able to touch."
When The Honda Classic moved to PGA National Resort & Spa in 2007, it awarded $430,000 to charity. By 2010, it had eclipsed the $1 million mark ($1,018,961) and it broke through the $2 million barrier in 2013 with $2.13 million in contributions. The growth is a testament to American Honda's 34 years as the longest-standing title sponsor on the PGA TOUR as well as partnerships with PGA National Resort & Spa, PGA of America, Palm Beach County, the City of Palm Beach Gardens and the PGA TOUR along with the support from major local partners such as Tire Kingdom, United Technologies and FPL. Player, corporate and spectator support has led to increased ticket sales, parking revenues, concessions and sponsorships.
"We have always aimed to grow an event that could raise millions of dollars for our community and continue to make us all proud," Kennerly said. "We are going into year 10 now and this community has really embraced us and put a stamp of approval on it. It's about family, it's about philanthropy and it's about creating excitement. Through Honda Classic Cares week and all that we do, we are connecting with the community. The Honda Classic cares about people and the futures of the children in our community."