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Kresge uses golf as platform to raise autism awareness

April 12, 2013

By Len Hayward, Midland Reporter-Telegram

This article has been reposted courtesy of the Midland Reporter-Telegram.

Cliff Kresge says he is doing his small part.

But to many in East Tennessee who have children with autism, he is doing plenty.

Kresge, a veteran of both the Tour and the PGA TOUR, started his Kresge’s Krew Foundation about five years ago to bring awareness and help organizations that help families who have children with autism.

This weekend, Kresge is helping to promote Autism Awareness Month by having Tour players and officials wear blue. And he’s seeing plenty of support.

“The guys out here have been great,” Kresge said before his afternoon round at Midland Country Club on Friday. “They have really helped out and come together. That’s the thing about golf, they are willing to give back and help each other out. Plus we get pretty good support from quite a few people that come out and watch.”

Kresge’s reason for starting the foundation is personal. His son, Mason, was diagnosed with autism around the age of 3. Today, Mason is 12 and will turn 13 in August, and Kresge said he gets A’s and B’s in school and is in a mainstream school.

Kresge said his foundation has helped organizations in East Tennessee give other families opportunities to help their children. Kresge said his foundation, mainly through its annual pro-am tournament in Kingsport, Tenn., each year, has raised nearly $350,000, and much of that goes back into different charities in East Tennessee.

Kresge, who is from Florida, started the foundation in East Tennessee because that is where his wife, Judy, is from.

“We wanted other kids to have that support as well,” Kresge said. “We are a small operation compared to Ernie (Els) and what he is doing. He’s helped me out, and I help him out. It’s been rewarding.”

Kresge knew he had the platform to help bring awareness to autism, but he said support for his annual pro-am tournament, grew when Ernie Els became involved.

Els has an autism foundation of his own, and Kresge said it didn’t take much for Els to come to the Tennessee hills to help support Kresge’s cause.

“I was on (the PGA TOUR) at the time, and we both knew we had children in the autism spectrum, and I asked him, if I would have a golf tournament would you come play? And he said yes,” said Kresge, who missed the cut for this weekend’s tournament in Midland. “It started steamrolling (when Els got involved), and it’s been great in that aspect.”

Kresge said the ultimate goal is to have an autism center in the style of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital where parents can bring their children for help. He said for now, though, he wants to continue to raise money and awareness through his foundation, and is loving every minute of it.

 “It’s been very rewarding, and it’s a lot of time and a lot of work,” Kresge said. “My wife has been incredible, and put in countless hours and hasn’t taken a dime for any of it. Every penny we raise goes back into the local community.”

READ MORE ABOUT: Cliff Kresge , Youth/Children
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