‘Fore’ the Community

If you think this is just about golf, think again.

The SAS Championship, an official event on the PGA Tour’s Champions Tour featuring the world’s top golfers over the age of 50, is also an ongoing gift to the Cary community, and to the children who represent its future.

“The best way to look at the impact of the SAS Championship is to think of the three reasons SAS supports this event,” said Jeff Kleiber, tournament director since 2003. “First, they do it to grow their business by creating opportunities to spend time with customers and prospects.

“Second, they do it to give back to the community. Cary is showcased throughout the week in live Golf Channel coverage, plus the secret of Cary is being told to 206 countries worldwide through the international telecast.

“Finally,” Kleiber said, “SAS does this to support local educational organizations. Over the 15 years of the SAS Championship, nearly $4 million in tournament proceeds have been distributed to area youth educational organizations and programs.” 

Anniversary Year

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the SAS Championship, which began in 2001 in the chaotic days post-9/11, when organizers weren’t sure they could even get the golfers to Cary.

And this isn't the first time the event has weathered weather, Kleiber recalls.

“My first year with the event, as a Midwesterner, I did not have a lot of experience with hurricanes,” he said. “Paul Campion, our director of corporate partnerships and a Cary native, came into my office every day and drew the latest projected path of Hurricane (Isabel). It became obvious that it was headed our way.

“In meeting after meeting that week we discussed what to do operationally. The hurricane finally made landfall on the second day of our official Pro-Am. We made the decision early that we would not play. A favorite picture of mine is of me explaining to Arnold Palmer that he couldn’t hit balls on the driving range that day.

“We had all of the Pro-Am guests who were staying at Embassy Suites come to the ballroom for lunch, and all of the pros staying there told stories. Lee Trevino and Gary Player had everyone in the room rolling on the floor in laughter.

“The hurricane finally made its way to Cary around 2 p.m., with lots of wind and rain. A number of trees fell, but there was no significant damage. One was a large pine that fell across the putting green, but it was gone by sunrise and by noon we were playing the first round. You wouldn’t have known anything happened because of the hard work of our tournament volunteers and the Prestonwood grounds crew.”

Heading into this year’s SAS Championship, which requires more than 700 volunteers to produce, the tournament and related events have generated nearly $140 million in local economic activity.

Family Fun

For golfers, the SAS Championship brings champions and World Golf Hall of Famers to town, such as defending champion Kirk Triplett, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer and Mark O’Meara, competing for one of the largest purses of the year.

For families, it offers an Executive Women’s Day, Food Truck Friday, the Live Fearless 5K and the WakeMed Health Zone. New this year is the PNC Family Challenge Clinic.  

SAS Championship proceeds benefits the Y Learning Program, YMCA of the Triangle’s afterschool tutoring program for at-risk children.

“More than 1,700 children participate in Y afterschool tutor programs at 50 sites throughout the Triangle,” said Bruce Ham, chief development officer for YMCA of the Triangle. “Support from the SAS Championship allows the children to ensure their homework is complete, receive remediation in areas where they struggle, and receive weekly online literacy support.

“Y Learning students have a higher passing rate than their peers on EOGs, historically 30 to 45 percent higher than other at-risk students.”

Students also enjoy a tournament visit, and learn about careers in media, turf management and hospitality. 

“It’s a great way to get our youth thinking about possibilities for the future,” Ham said. “My favorite story is about a middle school Y Learning student, Raykeon. Championship staff members allowed students to hit balls with the pros at the driving range, and to get tips. Raykeon had never held a golf club in his life and his first drive went 200 feet. 

“(Professional golfer) Bobby Clampett and other pros were impressed and gave him another ball. That one, and the next and the next, also went 200 feet! Prestonwood was kind enough to give Raykeon golf lessons that semester. He picked up a skill he would have never known he had.”

Daily SAS Championship tickets are $20. For ticketing information and full schedule of events, see www.saschampionship.com.

SAS Championship Week

October 5-11

Prestonwood Country Club, Cary

Proceeds benefit YMCA of the Triangle’s Y Learning Program


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