Avid LPGA fans can rattle off the names of top players and list the champions at the LPGA's four majors.
But when it comes to the biggest winners each week and throughout the year, how much does the public really know about the charities served in local communities that host LPGA events?
"As one example, every week on tour, we donate money to the future of the game and to the LPGA Foundation's LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program through the weekly tournament pro-am," said LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. "Our players have voted year after year to donate all of the pro-am purse to the LPGA Foundation."
That grassroots outreach program also was the beneficiary of this year's Founders Cup, the LPGA Tour stop in Phoenix that contributed $500,000 to the LPGA Foundation and its LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program.
What was the immediate impact of that contribution? An increase of nearly 1,500 girls joined the program this year and 42 new Girls Golf sites were added throughout America. And because of the additional funding to the program, the LPGA was able to award $400,000 in grants to Girls' Golf sites.
Just at the inaugural LPGA Founders Cup this year, an event in which LPGA players forgo tournament earnings to support the LPGA Foundation and Girls Golf, charities were the obvious winners. The tournament's champion, Karrie Webb contributed the $200,000 amount of her winner's prize to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and to the Japan Relief Charity. Runners-up Brittany Lincicome and Paula Creamer donated their earnings of $77,500 each to The First Tee of St. Petersburg and to the Japan Relief Charity, respectively.
Other player charities at that event included Birdies For Breast Cancer, Muhammad Ali Parkinson's Foundation, Make A Wish Foundation of Central Florida, the American Heart Association and the Special Olympics of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"Supporting local charities is extremely important to TOA events," said Gail Graham, president of the LPGA's Tournament Owners Association (TOA) and a two-time LPGA Tour winner. "The majority of our [TOA member] events are sharply focused on providing awareness, support and dollars to local charities."
Graham noted that support from LPGA events make up the majority of some charities' yearly operating budgets. That was the case for the Corning Classic Charities at the former LPGA Corning Classic, last held in 2009.
"The communities really do count on the support of the LPGA event," said Graham. "[Fortunately in Corning], the operating entity of the event supported a number of local charities through 2011, and continues to support the Corning chapter of The First Tee."
The LPGA has held a tournament in Portland, Ore., since the early 1970s, and that event, the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola, leaves a whopping $1 million in the community each year for The Safeway Foundation. Along with Safeway, the foundation supports hunger relief, education, health and human services, and special needs through partnerships with local organizations, schools and individuals.
"That's pretty amazing to think of a million dollars going back to charity," said Whan.
In Rochester, N.Y., the Wegmans LPGA Championship has partnered with the United Way. Working together, they established a program called "Graduation Is The Goal," designed to keep kids in school. Some $400,000 each year has been raised in the program providing long-term academic resources, life skills development and job training.
Some charities are perfect fits for title sponsors. Navistar, for example, builds some of the world's most advanced military vehicles to protect U.S. military, so when tournament organizers at the Navistar LPGA Classic Presented by Monaco RV thought of charities, the Wounded Warriors Project made sense. The tournament offered free admission at this year's tournament but asked fans to make a donation in lieu of purchasing a ticket. All proceeds benefited programs supporting military personnel wounded in action.
Charitable donations also come in many forms. At the LPGA's season-ending CME Group Titleholders tournament in Orlando, Fla., the tournament partnered with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. Fans gained free admission into the first round of the tournament by brining three canned-food goods. Second Harvest distributes donated food products to more than 600 nonprofit agencies in six counties of Central Florida, serving 732,000 individuals in 2009-2010.
"Our hope was to not only bring the greatest female golfers to the area, but to also give back to the local community," said tournament director Chris Garrett.
While the LPGA has supported small local charities that service the arts, family services, ministries and minority golf up to the larger national charities, such as Ronald McDonald House Children's Charities, the YMCA and Girl Scouts of America, it also has partnered with its tournaments to support charities around the world.
At the CN Canadian Women's Open, for example, The CN Miracle Match benefits local children's hospitals in communities where the LPGA tournament is played. This year, two Montreal children's hospitals were the official beneficiaries, with a record $2.1 million raised to improve medical care for children in Greater Montreal.
The RICOH Women's British Open has focused on environmental issues, creating a program called "Green Initiatives For Tomorrow" (GIFT) to work toward solutions to stop climate change.
"At that event, LPGA players, fans and corporate entities are asked to simply pledge an intention to reduce their carbon footprint," said Graham. "For every 10 people who pledge to reduce their CO2 footprints, RICOH and the RICOH Women's British Open promise to plant one tree in Africa. The more pledges received, the more trees that will be planted."
Even the LPGA's developmental tour, the Symetra Tour (formerly known as the LPGA Futures Tour), attempts to impact each community where the tour plays. In 2011, for example, a canned-food drive in exchange for tournament admission impacted the San Antonio Food Bank at the Symetra Classic in Texas. That tour has also contributed nearly $5 million to local charities throughout the United States.
"When our founders formed the LPGA 61 years ago, they believed they could change the opportunities for women in golf," added Whan. "What they couldn't have dreamed was that the LPGA would be able to contribute more than $211 million to those in need."
- LPGA senior writer Lisa D. Mickey
Tomorrow will be part two of the series where we take a look back at Kristin Ingram who is still giving thanks.