Mark Wilson Charity Classic nets $170K for Blessings in a Backpack
September 28, 2015
By Helen Ross, PGA TOUR Staff
Mark Wilson and his wife Amy have filled those backpacks with granola bars, oatmeal packets, soups and fresh fruit. They've been there when the happy children took them home on Fridays, too.
But the couple wanted to do more to help Blessings in a Backpack make sure uderpriviledged youngsters in the Chicago area don't go hungry on the weekends.
So the Mark Wilson Charity Classic was born. And in one glorious day last week, more than $170,000 was raised -- enough to feed the nearly 600 eligible kids in the two schools the Wilsons sponsor for four years.
Wilson recruited 12 of his peers on the PGA TOUR, as well as one of their caddies, a talented player in his own right, and five Chicago area sports celebrities. Joining Wilson from the TOUR were Zach Johnson, his bagman Damon Green, Daniel Summerhays, Tony Finau, Kevin Chappell, James Hahn, Rory Sabbatini, George McNeill, Kevin Streelman, Cameron Tringale, Jerry Kelly and David Hearn.
"They are very giving," Wilson said. "Most of us are grateful for where we are and realize that the platform we have can help out those in need. They didn't take a dime, which is really cool and just maximizes the amount that goes back to charity."
Celebrities attending were former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and kicker Jay Feely, as well as Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins and Pat Foley, the voice of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The tournament, which was held Sept. 21 at Royal Melbourne Country Club in the Chicago suburb of Long Grove, got under way with breakfast and a clinic where Wilson said Jacobsen was at his best.
"His play on words was masterful," Wilson said, chuckling. "Jerry Kelly was out there showing everyone how to hit a fade and Peter said, 'When you get to the Champions Tour, you fade every night.'"
As the clinic ended, Finau, the big-hitting PGA TOUR rookie, led the field off with three booming drives that went over the fence at the end of the driving range. This is, after all, a man who averages 309 yards off the tee and whose longest measured drive this year traveled 383.
Each pro and celebrity played with a foursome in a "Shamble" format, where everyone played from the best drive and picked up after two putts.
"The pace of play was great," Wilson said, noting the average round took 4 hours, 15 minutes.
The event ended with lunch and an auction hosted by George Savaricas of The Golf Channel. But Wilson said Sabbatini soon took over when one package wasn't selling for as much as he thought it should.
"He raised another $1,500," Wilson said. "He has a huge heart and he's very giving."
Sabbatini also donated a driver, joking with the golfers that it had "not even been thrown yet," Wilson said. Sabbatini's group also won the pro-am, shooting a team score of 43.
Wilson said he was grateful for the support of his fellow TOUR pros. Blessings in a Backpack has been a favorite cause of his family since Amy met the founder at the Colonial National Invitational Tournament.
A former president of the PGA TOUR Wives Association, she took it back to the group -- which was quick to get involved. Ditto for their spouses.
"It just exploded," Mark said. "Now there's 19 PGA TOUR professionals who sponsor at least one school."
A mere $80 -- just $2 each week -- is enough to feed one child on the weekends throughout a school year.
"The whole idea is food for the weekend -- not only for the student but maybe to share a little bit," Mark said.
That's what Wilson and his contemporaries on TOUR made sure to do, too.
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