After Edmond, Oklahoma, native Zach Tays’ life was cut short in a tragic car accident in 2008, his family and friends wanted to do something to honor his memory.
Seven years ago, they set up the Zach Tays Memorial Scholarship Fund, which awards needs-based scholarships for youth ice hockey players in the Oklahoma City metro. In addition to ice hockey, one of the activities Tays loved to do was play golf with his father, so having a golf tournament as a fundraiser seemed like a natural fit.
For the past five years, the scholarship fund has raised $2,000-$4,000 annually through the golf tournament alone.
Golf tournaments have been and are still a popular way to fundraise across the country. With proper planning and execution, a group can make a significant amount of money by hosting a day on the links.
A successful golf tournament fundraiser starts with a clearly defined purpose as well as goals for the event. This helps determine the audience the event is marketed to as well as the style of play for the tournament.
“To be successful, tournament organizers need to be clear about their purpose and intended goal in planning and advertising their event,” said Beth Henry, the ZTMSF scholarship coordinator. “Those answers really drive how, when and where to advertise.”
“Our tournament is really a time of fellowship for Zach’s family and friends,” she said. “We have had competitive golfers attend just to ‘get the win,’ and they were welcomed with open arms, but it did change the look and feel of the day. Since then, we have purposely not pursued those types of players again. We really target the OKC ice hockey community and friends.”
Knowing and addressing limitations is critical. It is important to set realistic and attainable goals for both attendance and sponsorships.
Kyle Schulz, president of the Deer Creek Schools Foundation, said one of the foundation’s greatest challenges is the limited number of businesses in the Deer Creek community, in northwest Oklahoma County.
“But with the enthusiasm and support of our parents and families, we have been able to reach out beyond our district lines and gain support to make this year’s tournament another success,” Schulz said.
DCSF has raised $10,000-$15,000 at its golf tournaments in the past, Schulz said, and is projecting similar numbers this year, despite the change in venue to the Gaillardia Country Club and effect of oil and gas cuts in the area.
Having a target audience identified in advance helps determine the type of play at the tournament. To accommodate a broad range of golf skill levels, a scramble format provides the most appeal and also allows for good speed of play. For more accomplished golfers with similar ability, a best ball format encourages a more competitive, but potentially lengthier, event. Similarly, pricing should be based on the value of the experience, as well as the desired tournament atmosphere.
The actual event can and should include more than just golf, though. In addition to revenue generated from player registrations, there is money to be made from hole sponsorships, silent auctions, raffles, and mulligans. Meals should be a part of the day and can be offered free to golfers, such as breakfast or lunch. Some groups include dinner, and some have chosen to do a dinner as a separate fundraising effort either before or after the golf day.
The Jake Flynn Memorial Scholarship Fund held its first golf event in September 2016, which included lunch, dinner, and a silent auction. The fund was established to reward an outstanding student-athlete from Lakeville North and Lakeville South high schools in Minnesota, and to honor Jake Flynn, who passed away in a car accident in December 2015.
In total, the sold-out event raised about $70,000 net profit. After golf registration spots sold out, an option remained on the event website’s registration page for people to continue to make donations.
“We actually sold out over a month before the tournament,” said Jordan Flynn, Jake’s brother, a member of the planning committee. “We knew the golf would sell out, and we knew that there were quite a few people who don’t golf, but would want to come to the event. So we offered ‘dinner only’ tickets. It was really great to see the outpouring of support from the community from not only the people that golfed, but the people that only came to the dinner and auction as well.”
Volunteers also play a vital role in the success of the event.
“Overall, there is quite a bit of front-loaded work to get everyone registered and signed in for the event,” Schulz said. “We depend on the help of four trustees and six volunteers to address the various tasks of getting the event started, including the inevitable details that pop up along the way. Having additional volunteers helps to build camaraderie and can make a difference in the work of the project to be an enjoyable and successful experience.”
The overall goal for the event should be to make a lasting impression on attendees, so they will consider coming back from year to year. Contests and prizes, ample food and drinks, photos, and gift bags are all seemingly small extras that can make a large impact on an attendee’s experience.
In addition, the host course can be an invaluable resource when planning the event.
Alsie Hyden, director of golf at Oklahoma City’s Lake Hefner Golf Club, encourages his staff to get as involved as possible with any group planning an outing.
“We want any group that comes out to our course to have a good event,” Hyden said, “because the success of an outing is a reflection of our course.”