One of the biggest expenses in golf, from the junior ranks to the PGA Tour, is travel.
The PGA Tour and United Airlines are joining forces to help golf programs at more than 50 Historically Black Colleges and Universities with travel grants to help teams get to tournaments across the country.
United will award the teams more than $500,000 in grants, divided equally among 51 programs. Each team will receive $10,000 in travel credits, which will help an estimated 250 student-athletes and their coaches fly to tournament sites that might have been previously out of reach.
“Removing barriers for HBCU students to have the same opportunities given to other collegiate athletes will open doors for countless young Black golfers to achieve their dreams and for HBCU golf programs to develop to their full potential,” said United President Brett Hart in a statement.
Winston-Salem University golf coach Charles Penny II, whose program was brought back for the first time in 10 years last year, said the team was able to play in only one fall tournament because it didn’t have enough money in its budget for more travel. He said with the United credits, the team will be able to play as many as four tournaments next fall.
“The United Airlines grant will impact our program’s ability to travel tremendously,” Penny said in a statement.
The Florida A&M men’s team and Bethune-Cookman women’s team are among the programs that will receive the travel credits. When the Edward Waters women’s team begins play in 2023, they will be able to apply.
United is the official airline of the PGA tour and was the first sponsor for the Tour’s HBCU Grant Program.
“We have made a pledge to help diversify the landscape of competitive golf and this collaboration between United Airlines and these colleges and universities will be a significant step towards leveling the playing field and enhancing the student-athlete experience along the way,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.
D.J. Gregory honored by Tour
D.J. Gregory, who was born with cerebral palsy and wrote a book and has achieved nationwide fame for walking more than 14,000 miles and 42,000 holes at PGA Tour events since 2008, has been named the recipient of the PGA Tour Courage Award.
Gregory, who embarked on his quest to support his Walking For Kids Foundation, was honored in a surprise ceremony at the TPC Scottsdale, the site of this week’s WM Phoenix Open.
The PGA TOUR Courage Award is presented to a person who, through courage and perseverance, has overcome adversity, such as personal tragedy or debilitating injury or illness, to make a significant and meaningful contribution to the game of golf. Introduced in 2012, Gregory is the fifth recipient and first non-PGA TOUR member of the PGA TOUR Courage Award, joining Erik Compton (2013), Jarrod Lyle (2015), Gene Sauers (2017) and Morgan Hoffmann (2020).
“D.J. has endeared himself to countless fans, players, staff and tournaments for over a decade on the PGA TOUR and is a tremendous example of perseverance and courage,” said Monahan, who was at the TPC Scottsdale to make the presentation to Gregory. “Our players have embraced D.J. over the years and continue to be motivated by his dedication to the Walking For Kids Foundation. We couldn’t be prouder of the impact he has made and the many lives he has touched in a positive way.”
Monahan announced during the ceremony that the Tour will make a $25,000 donation to Walking For Kids. Tournament sponsor Waste Management and No. 1-ranked player in the world Jon Rahm matched it. Gregory will walk with Rahm in all of his rounds this week.
Gregory’s parents were told shortly after he was born that he would spend his life in a wheelchair. But after numerous surgeries, he learned to walk with a cane.
He became a golf fan at the age of 12 and in 2008 he decided on his quest to walk Tour events.
Players began to take notice and many asked Gregory to walk their rounds. He has walked with the Sunday winner eight times, including Rahm at the U.S. Open last year and Jason Day at the 2015 PGA.
RSM donates to INK!
The St. Johns County Education Foundation Inc., which operates as INK! (Investing in Kids) has received a $351,721 donation from the RSM Classic’s Birdies Fore Love program.
The RSM Classic is the PGA Tour’s fall event at the Sea Island Club on St. Simons Island, Ga. The tournament benefits the Davis Love Foundation.
INK! provides program and classroom resources to educators and students in St. Johns County. INK! also received a $303,000 donation from the RSM Classic in 2021.
The RSM Classic has raised more than $20 million since it began in 2010.
Epson Tour features record purses
The Epson Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit, will have a 22-event schedule this year, beginning and ending in Florida.
The Tour gained its new sponsor two weeks ago. It opens March 4-6 with Florida’s Natural Charity Classic at the Country Club of Winter Haven and ends Oct. 6-9 with the Epson Tour Championship at LPGA International in Daytona Beach.
Tournaments will be played in 13 states with a total purse of $4.41 million and an average purse of $210,000. Nine years ago, there were 15 events for $1.6 million, and an average purse of $108,000.
The Tour will have two other events in Florida, at the Alaqua Country Club in Longwood May 20-22 and the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills the following week.
Event: WM Phoenix Open, Thursday-Sunday, TPC Scottsdale, Scottsdale, Ariz.
At stake: $8.2 million purse ($1,476,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner).
Defending champion: Brooks Koepka.
TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 3-7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m.); CBS (Saturday, 3-6:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3-6 p.m.).
Area players entered: Jonathan Byrd, Harris English, Brian Harman, Billy Horschel, Zach Johnson, Patton Kizzire, Russell Knox, Tyler McCumber, Keith Mitchell, J.T. Poston, Sam Ryder, Hudson Swafford.
Notable: Kopeka’s 65 in the final round edged Xander Schauffele and K.H. Lee by one shot. … Highlighting the best field of the early season so far are world No.1 Jon Rahm, FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay, defending Players champion Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott and Tony Finau.
ROAD TO THE PLAYERS
When: March 10-13, Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
Defending champion: Justin Thomas.
Days until first round: 28.
Events until Players: Five.
Players trivia: The low “ringer” score (adding the lowest score on each hole) at the Stadium Course in Players competition is 31. The par-5 ninth is the only hole that has never at least a two scored on it. The high ringer score is 172, with 10 holes having at least one double-digit score, led by 12s at Nos. 4 and 17.
KORN FERRY TOUR
Event: Astara Golf Championship, Thursday-Sunday, Bogota (Col.) Country Club.
At stake: $750,000 purse ($135,000 to the winner).
Defending champion: Mito Pereira.
Area players entered: Chris Baker, Chandler Blanchet, A.J. Crouch, Taylor Dickson, Luke Guthrie, David Lingmerth.
Notable: Pereira shot 64 in the final round and beat Ben Kohles by two shots. The tournament was canceled last year.