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Charities hope dough rolls in

Area groups soliciting pledges on birdies made benefit in Chrysler event.

Published September 25, 2003

When the world's best golfers convene for next month's Chrysler Championship, there will be more than a few observers hoping Innisbrook's Copperhead course is set up as easy as possible and yields a slew of birdies. And they are not necessarily players.

Several charities stand to benefit when a golfer makes a birdie, so they will be rooting for such conditions - even if the site of the $4.8-million PGA Tour event is anything but a pushover. For the third year, the Birdies for Charity program will be part of the tournament, previously known as the Tampa Bay Classic.

Any nonprofit organization can sign up and solicit pledges based on the number of birdies made in the Oct.30-Nov.2 event. Last year, 1,295 birdies were recorded in the four-day Tampa Bay Classic won by K.J. Choi. That means a penny pledge would bring $12.95. Each charity retains 100 percent of the money. And the best part? The tourney collects the pledges.

"Everybody always asks the same question: What's the catch?" tournament director Gerald Goodman said. "And there is no catch. They get to keep all the money, plus there is a bonus pool, and they don't have to collect any of the money. We send out the payment envelopes, the money comes in here and we turn around and give it back to the charity. This is a no-brainer as far as a fundraiser."

The Chrysler Championship has a beneficiary, Academy Prep in St.Petersburg, that receives proceeds. Birdies for Charity is in addition to those proceeds, and any area charity can benefit. It was the idea of former tournament chairman Roger Larson, who saw that local charities at other PGA Tour stops, including the recent John Deere Classic, raised significant sums through the program.

"The most difficult decision for any tournament to make is to decide which charities they are going to support," said Doug Laseter, Birdies for Charity coordinator. "This program allows for the Chrysler Championship to support any charity in the Tampa Bay community. Charities get out of the program what they put into the program. It's pledge-driven, similar to a walk-a-thon. We supply all the administrative costs,then they can share in a $100,000 bonus pool based on their efforts. Last year, 29 charities shared in the pool, and it allows us to not have to decide who is worth more than another."

Making the program potentially more lucrative is the $100,000 Brighthouse Networks Bonus Pool. The charity reaching a minimum of $3,000 in pledges is eligible for the pool, which will be divided on a percentage basis. The more a charity earns in relation to the total amount raised, the bigger portion of the money it will receive.

"It's perfect for the smaller charities who are not professional fund-raising machines," Laseter said. "This gives them a tool or mechanism to get in front of their donors, and in a fun way. They have a reason to get an audience with individual donors and corporate donors to support them through this program, and the message is that they will retain 100 percent of what is pledged. So many times when you support a charity, they are not going to get all of the money."

There's an incentive for those who participate by making pledges. On the pledge card, they can guess the number of birdies made in the tournament. Last year, 156 players produced the 1,295 birdies. In 2000, 144 golfers made 1,206. This season's field is 132. Anyone correctly guessing the number of birdies will get a $1,000 shopping spree at Kash 'N Karry. For information, call (727) 942-3737.

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