Why golf is good for business (and nonprofits)

Golf, it has been said, is a good walk spoiled. But for businesses and their nonprofit partners, it’s an opportunity to do well by doing good.

Golf, it has been said, is a good walk spoiled. But for businesses and their nonprofit partners, it’s an opportunity to do well by doing good.

The charity golf tournament season, a staple of Westchester and Fairfield counties’ summers, hit the pause button during the pandemic. But with restrictions eased, golf outings — which typically include lunch and dinner with auctions and entertainment — are in full swing (pun intended).

“A lot of deals are made at the country club,” says Scott R. Gance of networking on the links. “But at a golf tournament you meet new people.” And new people, the implication is, mean new opportunities. 

Gance has seen this from both the business and nonprofit sides. He’s president of The Partners Commercial Real Estate Services in Wilton, encompassing brokerage, consultancy and development, with multifamily offerings a specialty. These include The Station Lofts at Port Chester, an upcoming community of 180 luxury apartments at New Broad and William streets. But then he puts on his golf cap as chairman of the Honorine Golf Classic, whose eighth annual event takes place Aug. 2 at The Country Club of Darien. Over the years, the classic has raised more than $130,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, which treats pediatric cancer. For Gance, this is more than an opportunity to get The Partners’ brand out there. It’s a way to honor his late parents, Anthony and Marcelle Gance, St. Jude supporters who died of cancer. (The tournament was named Honorine after Marcelle’s middle name.)

This year, the classic has added another, local beneficiary — The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, founded in 1988 in Ashford, Connecticut, by the late actor and Westport resident Paul Newman to give seriously ill children and their families a chance “to raise a little hell” in summer and year-round. 

“I can’t think of two better organizations to support given the work they do for kids struggling with life-threatening illnesses,” says Mark. J. Curtis, CEO of Splash Car Washes, a fixture in Fairfield and Westchester counties. “Moreover, Splash can’t help but lend a hand to a guy like Scott Gance, whose passion for raising money for these groups is contagious. We welcome him and his fellow volunteers back to our locations to help promote participation in the outing.”

Honorine is just one of the many tournaments that have been teeing up this summer. The Boys & Girls Club of Mount Vernon held its annual Corporate Golf Outing June 21 at Mount Kisco Country Club. Meanwhile, Phelps Hospital Northwell Health held its 17th annual Phelps Golf Classic June 7 at Sleepy Hollow Country Club, raising more than $175,000 for the acute care community hospital in its most successful tournament to date. (Overally the event has raised $2 million.)

On Sept. 14, Greenwich-based Breast Cancer Alliance tees off for its ninth annual golf outing, at The Golf Club at Purchase. The alliance has awarded more than $30 million in grants to foster research, breast surgery fellowships, regional education and screenings for the uninsured and underserved, with its golf tournaments raising an average of $150,000 ($100,000 net) per year for the organization, says BCA Executive Director Yonni Wattenmaker. (WAG and its sister publications, the Westchester and Fairfield County Business Journals, are media sponsors of the event.)

Sponsorships are one way in which such tournaments raise money for causes that can spotlight businesses as well. A charity may pay $1,000, Gance says by way of example, for golf umbrellas that a company will sponsor with a $3,000 contribution to have its name and/or logo on the umbrellas. 

And that’s just for starters as sponsorship packages for tournaments, which can begin at $200 for a silent auction contribution and exceed $50,000 for the entire event, include opportunities for publicity across the tournaments’ many print and digital platforms. Honorine’s sponsors include the White Plains-based accounting firm Citrin Cooperman & Company LLP and Preferred Utilities Manufacturing Corp. in Danbury. Breast Cancer Alliance’s tournament sponsors include Café Agave, maker of alcohol-spiked coffee, and SoNo 1420 American Craft Distillers in Norwalk. Breast Cancer Alliance was still formulating its list at press time, but past sponsors have included JPMorgan Chase, Mercedes, Tesla and UBS, Wattenmaker says.

Some sponsors or businesses donate in-kind services in exchange for having their names emblazoned on websites, programs, country club banners and golf paraphernalia. Danbury’s River Design — which bills itself as “the Madison Avenue for Main Street” — does pro bono marketing work for Honorine, says Ken Brooks, the company’s principal and creative director. It was Brooks who suggested Honorine broaden its appeal by adding a local charity like The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp this year. (The camp could use the support as a fire destroyed a space housing several program areas in February. But the camp is operating at capacity this summer and will begin rebuilding in September, says Andrea Keefe, Hole in the Wall’s director of corporate and community partnerships.)

This year Honorine has come up with an unusual marketing ploy to increase its fundraising — something Gance says he saw out west — a Million Dollar Helicopter Ball Drop. Just before the dinner, the helicopter will drop all the numbered balls purchased in advance by individuals. The 20 closest to the flag will receive gold envelopes with prizes worth up to $3,500. Holders of the four closest, however, will also have an opportunity to shoot it out on the 18th hole. Whoever gets a hole in one from 150 yards out from the flag wins $1 million. (If more than one person makes the shot, the prize is split.) Gance says the purchase of the balls will cover the cost of the helicopter and the $1 million insurance, though he is looking for an underwriter.

For participating businesses, such marketing strategies are, well, par for the course.

“A lot of people get involved with charities, because of personal tragedies. I haven’t faced that, but I do have a 6-year-old,” Brooks says by way of explaining his involvement with children’s charities.

“It’s great camaraderie,” says Mary Quick, a past BCA board member who’s co-chairing BCA’s tournament with husband James Daras and Suzanne and Tim Sennatt. “And they’re playing for a great cause.”

The eighth annual Honorine Golf Classic takes place Aug. 2 at The Country Club of Darien, beginning at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are $475 for individuals and $1,700 for a foursome and include lunch, dinner and entertainment. Tickets for the dinner alone are $125. WAG readers can mention code WAG21 for a discount on golf tickets. For more, visit honorinegolfclassic.com or call 203-762-9990.

Breast Cancer Alliance’s ninth annual Golf Outing begins at 11 a.m. Sept. 14 at The Golf Club of Purchase. Tickets are $4,000 for a foursome and include lunch, dinner and entertainment. Tickets for the dinner alone are $250. (If someone buys a ticket and a company matches that amount, the whole gift from the company is tax-deductible.) 

For more, visit breastcanceralliance.org.

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