PGA of America starts relief fund with $5 million donation

The PGA of America established the Golf Emergency Relief Fund on Monday by donating $5 million and pledging to match up to an additional $2.5 million given by other groups in hopes of providing support for the golf industry during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PGA’s contribution included every member of its executive team voluntarily reducing his or her compensation, along with the board of directors pledging personal donations.

The fund is being administered by E4E Relief, an independent third-party public charity.

“There’s pain everywhere,” said Seth Waugh, the CEO of the PGA of America. “It’s how to get to the other side. The government is doing extraordinary things. The Fed actions last week were stunning. The loan programs are very clever to keep people employed. The bad news is it may not be enough depending on how long this lasts.

“What we’re saying is, ‘How can we create an additional safety net?’”

The PGA said the fund was being supported by other golf organizations, including the two U.S. tours, the USGA, the superintendents and golf course owner groups and merchandisers.

Applications will start being accepted on Thursday. The first phase will distribute $500 grants for basic needs and $1,500 grants for critical needs. The second phase will make funds available up to $3,500 depending on need.

“Our hope is the industry gets behind it,” Waugh said. “It would be amazing if we could double our contribution and some of the tour guys, if and when they can do anything, and do some fundraisers for the industry. Look at the amount of charity that comes out of the industry. Now it’s time for the industry to support golf.”

The PGA of America has nearly 29,000 members, though the relief fund goal is to also include members of other golf organizations, club caddies and players on developmental tours.

“We have to ensure that the heart and soul of our game — our people — are able to get back on their feet and continue to serve others down the road,” PGA President Suzy Whaley said. “Eventually, golf will return, but we first need to reach out and help people in our industry during this national emergency.”

Waugh said he hopes the Golf Emergency Relief Fund can become a single source of contributions to help the industry. The National Golf Foundation estimated through its survey that half of the nation’s golf courses are closed, though Waugh says he believes that number is a little higher.

Whether golf courses are considered part of essential businesses that stay open varies state by state, though in cases like Florida, some counties have ordered golf courses closed.

“We should be there when you need us the most,” Waugh said. “You want to make lives better. They need us now more than they ever will.”

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