Each year Rolex and the wonderful sponsors at Evian present an award entitled “The Prize for a Better Tomorrow.” This year the recipient was LPGA Hall of Famer Betsy King who has spent almost two decades working to bring clean drinking water to impoverished people in Africa. King’s charity, Golf Fore Africa, works with World Vision to build freshwater wells in villages, and provide mechanized water systems (what most westerners call indoor plumbing) to schools and hospitals.
At every fundraiser she hosts, King tells the story of a trip she took to Rwanda, Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania in 2006, and how moved she was by the spirit of the people despite their desperate circumstances. At that time, HIV/AIDS was ravaging the rural populations, especially children. King came home to Arizona and prayed for guidance in how she should help. From those prayers came the formation of Golf Fore Africa.
In 2007, GFA raised $250,000 to help AIDS orphans in Rwanda. Since then, the charity has worked to provide healthcare access and clean water to the most vulnerable communities throughout Africa.
“Working with World Vision has been such a blessing,” King said. “We’re sending a group back to Africa in August, and they are really looking forward to it. Several of our donors who have funded wells and mechanized systems are going over. It will be a moving experience for them.”
Former LPGA Tour player Kendall Dye is now the executive director of Golf Fore Africa and former LPGA Tour player Esther Choe (now DeGrace) is also with the charity.
DeGrace accompanied King to Evian where they were honored at the banquet Saturday night. Racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart was also on hand.
But, as always, King would not make any of it about herself. “I was approached by (an executive at Rolex) and asked about Golf Fore Africa,” King said, “I really didn’t know what it was about, but a couple of weeks later I got notice that I was going to receive this award, which is great for Golf Fore Africa.
“The more people who know about Golf Fore Africa and what we’re doing, the better. We’ll certainly see an uptick in online donations and things like that. We know what we’re doing, but it’s nice to have other people know as well.”
King has been forthright about her calling. “For years, I thought golf was what God had put me here to do,” she has said many times. “But I realize now, that’s not it at all. Everything I’ve done in my career, every tournament I’ve won, every award I’ve received, was to set me up to do what I’m doing now. This is my calling.”
World Vision has brought freshwater to every village in Rwanda, which was ravaged by civil war for a generation. Now the focus is Zambia. King’s goal with Golf Fore Africa is to have fresh drinking water available to every child on the continent by the year 2030.
“I think it’s great, too, that (this recognition) is at Evian,” King said. “The players are what make Golf Fore Africa so successful. We’ve had so many players who have personally and financially supported our cause, who have traveled to Africa and sponsored wells, who have been fundraisers for us. That’s what’s helped us do what we’ve been able to do. To receive this award at their major is special, because the award is not me, it’s for everyone who has been a part of this along the way.”
She hosted a fundraiser at Country Club of North Carolina in Southern Pines during the U.S. Women’s Open that was attended by a number of players and a large gallery of donors. “Right after that we had an event in New York,” King said. “And we have two more this year: one in October in Oklahoma City and one in December in Phoenix.
“Right now, we’re still in Zambia building wells,” King said. “The goal is to finish the job (in one country) before moving on. They’ve started ticking off the countries. Rwanda was the first. Now we’re involved in Zambia. More than 300 schools and 100 clinics will get mechanized systems and every village will have a well. We’ve committed $5 million to that cause and that will be finished sometime next year.”