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Let the Bidding Begin

As our foundation continues to help high school teams in need, here’s a chance to play in the Lexus Champions for Charity National Championship

By Ryan French

“For many of these kids, this is their last chance.” Those were the words of Erik Smith of Turning Point Academy in Shelby, N.C. We were looking for the first school to assist through our Drive Fore The Future Foundation, and after talking with Smith, we knew we had found it. 

With the help of Fire Pit Collective, Chris Gallagher and I started the foundation last year. Our goal is not to help kids hit a tight draw or learn how to flight their wedges (although we would love it if they did); it is to use golf to teach kids life lessons.

Turning Point Academy has just over 100 students in grades 6 through 12. Almost all of the students are on free or reduced lunch. Most students have been expelled from the public school system and come to Turning Point looking for a second chance. Smith, a counselor at the academy, reached out to me with an idea. 

The students couldn’t technically be on a team (the state prohibits expelled students from joining an organized school sport), but Smith wanted to start a golf club. We began with a tweet for donations, and the responses poured in. Balls, clubs, bags. Dunning Golf sent apparel, and a club stepped up with range availability and lessons. The foundation filled in the gaps, purchasing putting mats and sets of clubs.

Gallagher and I often talk about how much golf has meant to us, but most memories have little to do with the game. Among other things, I learned how to shake hands on a golf course and was taught about integrity and honesty, and how to interact with adults. Those were among the skills we hoped the kids would learn through the foundation. Six months later, I received an email from Smith. When I opened the six-page google document and read Erik’s words, I teared up. 

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Tim is a student who struggled with attendance, Turning Point’s most significant issue. He lives in a single-parent home, and his dad left for work before he woke up for school. Motivation to get to school was tough, and he struggled. Since Tim joined the academy golf club, his attendance has improved dramatically. D is a student who took a putter home after the first meeting of the club and putts on the carpet. The faculty has noticed his interaction with other students has increased, and he is smiling more. 

Smith’s correspondence ended with a quote from principal Chuck Gordon. It read, “Every once in a while, an event will be introduced into the life of the youth of our community that is life-changing! It is my belief that the golf program at Turning Point Academy is that event for a group of students in our school community. The life skills and etiquette introduced to these students through the game of golf will assist these students in a positive way for years to come.” 

That is why we started the foundation, to help the kids at Turning Point and the girl in Atlanta who was put in the foster care system at 15 and is now a member of the golf team. Kids at a rural Indiana school now have equipment that isn’t 30 years old, and the size of the team has almost doubled. A team in Kentucky, whose community was devastated by a tornado, has new clubs, bags, clothes and umbrellas. 

I am lucky to talk with coaches, parents and students, who get emotional when talking about the outpouring of support from total strangers, including the thousands of you who have made this possible. That brings me to our next endeavor.

The Lexus Championship for Charity will be played Dec. 7-11 (there are activities the days before competition) at Pebble Beach, the Links at Spanish Bay and Spyglass Hill, and the foundation is auctioning off a spot for a two-person team in the field. The 54-hole event will feature a two-person better-ball format. The package includes a four-night stay at the Inn at Spanish Bay. There will be a $60,000 purse. 

Lexus generously donated the spot to be auctioned off, and all of the profits will go directly to the Drive Fore the Future Foundation. Bids can be made at the link below.  

Bidding for 2022 Lexus Champions for Charity Auction

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