Champions Tour players swing for charity in Sioux Falls
August 9, 2012
By Mick Garry, Argus Leader
photos provided by Orion Classic
SIOUX FALLS, S.D-- The Orion Classic has developed a knack over the years for aligning itself with the right people.
The benefit for the Children’s Home Society, which added more than $300,000 the last two days to a total of more than $4 million in fundraising over its 17 years, grabbed onto Champions Tour player Graham Marsh a long time ago, and “Swampy” is still showing up.
The native Australian, who now has business interests in the area, was one of eight Champions Tour playing professionals at Westword Ho for the annual event Monday. While the 68-year-old’s ability to compete on the senior tour is not what it once was, the resolve to come to the aid of this Sioux Falls charity on a yearly basis has never been stronger.
“There’s no greater cause than children in need,” Marsh said, alluding to his initial attraction to becoming involved with the Children’s Home Society. “These children have gone through a horrific period in their lives, and the community has stepped up to save them. We’re talking about the next generation of Americans, and you can’t let that go by the wayside.”
Marsh and Onida natives Curt and Tom Byrum have worked to bring back both regulars and new faces throughout the years. New to the event this year were Kirk Triplett, Andrew Magee and Sandy Lyle. Others involved were returnees Morris Hatalsky, Peter Senior and David Eger.
Senior, an Australian who played most of his professional golf overseas, has won nearly $700,000 on the Champions Tour this year alone, and Kirk Triplett, a three-time winner on the regular tour with more than $14 million in PGA winnings, has won more than $650,000 this season.
“I’ve been deeply involved in the cause of adoption over the last 10 years,” said Triplett, who has two adopted children of his own, to a crowd gathered after the pro-am. “To see the way this community understands and supports adoption and the need for these kids to have homes – the crowd here should give itself a round of applause.”
The pro-am has been a very good vehicle for charities over the years, both on the PGA TOUR in the United States and Europe, but also on the senior tour.
While much has been made of the competitive opportunities that are presented for the over-50 pro golfers these days, it has also led to increased accessibility for charities to raise money.
“There is an ethos there (on the PGA TOUR) and they raise a lot of money, but the Champions Tour has opened the great players and the sport itself to a different sort of market,” Marsh said. “You’ve got generations moving along who remember great players. Many of the people from here who played with us in the pro-am today wouldn’t know 70 percent of the guys on the PGA Tour, but they probably know nearly every pro who plays in this event. The Champions Tour embraces that generational gap.”
Lyle, who won the British Open in 1985 and the Masters in 1988, called himself the only foreigner in attendance at the awards ceremony, forgetting for a moment that Senior, who he’d just had lunch with under the tent, lives in Australia.
“What is this?” Senior asked, interrupting Lyle’s turn at the microphone.
“You were probably in Britain at some time in your life, but exiled out on a boat,” Lyle joked in response while turning back to face the crowd. “He was part of a group known as the ‘Back People.’”
Obviously, in addition to the worthiness of the charity, having a good time was part of the criteria for the players brought in to play.
“It can be tough to come in here and do this for some of these guys, but for this event, they make the time,” Marsh said. “They’re at a point in their careers where they want to give something back.”
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