Throughout the last few years, even with restrictions because of COVID-19, the PGA Tour’s American Express tournament has been played each January in the desert.
As the tournament prepares for its 64th playing in two months, another tradition continued Thursday with 37 desert charities taking home a total of $1 million in proceeds from last January.
“First and foremost, the local aspect is what is important,” said Pat McCabe, executive director of The American Express at the distribution breakfast at La Quinta Country Club, one of three courses played in the PGA Tour event. “Thirty-seven groups received the funds, and we touched all of the desert cities. There are so many important groups that are doing such great work.”
Charities and non-profits working in the areas of health and wellness, youth sports, family support, education and homelessness received funds from the tournament through the new Impact Through Golf foundation, in its first year of managing the distributions. The Phil Mickelson Foundation had been the charitable arm but is no longer part of the event.
“We have some new board members who are going to make a significant contribution to the capacity for sponsors, play and recognition for this PGA Tour event,” said Linda Evans, mayor of La Quinta and a board member of the old Mickelson Foundation and the new Impact Through Golf foundation. “This group of board members who are quite familiar with other PGA Tour events across the country and the contributions they make locally, they have big plans on where they would like to take this tournament to where even more money is raised on an annual basis to make a consistent significant gift to the community.”
“We’re committed to backing our communities and continuing the longstanding legacy of supporting the Coachella Valley through the Impact Through Golf foundation and by enhancing the support of critical local organizations in the community,” said Shiz Suzuki, vice president of Global Brand Sponsorships and Experiential Marketing at American Express, in a statement announcing the donations.
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Thursday’s $1 million brings the tournament’s charity donations to the desert to $64 million since the event debuted in 1960.
Each charity that has received money from the tournament Thursday went through a process of applying for the money and explaining what the money would go toward. One such charity is the John F. Kennedy Foundation/Ophelia Project, based nationally in the desert but also with a desert chapter. It is a teen mentoring program for girls from eighth to 12th grades.
Local charities appreciate the donations
“It is a big deal for us, because what that offers is a chance to impact more lives,” said Peter Sturgeon, president and chief executive officer of the JFK Foundation/Ophelia Project. “The more funding we can get the more schools we can get. We are currently in 14 schools in the Coachella Valley, yet there are other schools that need our support, and we don’t have the people to do that without funding.”
The Ophelia project has more than 60 volunteers in the desert, Sturgeon said, mostly experienced successful women who mentor the young girls.
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The 64th annual tournament will be played Jan. 19-22 at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club in La Quinta and will feature concerts on Jan. 20 by pop star Gwen Stefani and Jan. 21 by country star Darius Rucker. McCabe said he believes the restrictions of the last few years won’t exist in 2023.
“I certainly anticipate that. Regardless of the things that were going on with the pandemic, which first we want to thank the frontline workers and healthcare industry, but we were still able to have golf tournaments,” McCabe said. “If you look back on 2021, we were able to have a golf tournament with no fans. Last year we did have fans back, but there were certain restrictions that were part of it. So 2023 we are optimistic that it will be more normal. We are trending that way.”
Tickets for the tournament are on sale at www.theamexgolf.com.