LAFAYETTE — Last March, PGA Tour veteran Kris Blanks accepted a $99,000 check as champion of the Web.com Tour’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
On Tuesday, 68 local and regional charities and youth groups joined Blanks in the Louisiana Open winner’s circle.
Those groups received checks totaling $195,000 from Open executive director Danny Jones as the tournament’s benefiting charities at a noon luncheon at Lafayette’s Petroleum Club.
“This is our best day of the year,” Jones said. “Championship Sunday is a great day because we get to honor a winner on the 18th green, but today we get to see a difference in our community. The Open brings professional golf to south Louisiana, but our primary goal is to make an impact and raise as many charity dollars as we can. Today we got to see those dollars go to work.”
The Louisiana Open celebrated its 23rd renewal at Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club in March, with the $550,000 event again serving as the kickoff tournament for the U.S. segment of the 26-tournament Web.com Tour. Blanks won the title in a sudden-death playoff with a 14-under score for his second Web.com Tour title.
The charitable dollar total and the number of benefitting charities and groups were each an increase of more than 23 percent over the previous year. The Open awarded just over $158,000 to 55 groups following the 2013 tournament, and total charitable giving has increased in every year since the 2009 economic downturn.
Jones said that 95 percent of the groups who receive charity dollars from the Open are directly involved in the staging of the event including cleanup, maintenance, parking, shuttle driving, marshaling, scoreboard operation and many other areas.
“Most of them aren’t glamorous jobs, but without them we don’t have a tournament,” Jones said. “It’s not like we just give them a check. They’re out there working, generating their own funds. We’re just the vehicle that allows them to do that.”
The Louisiana Open has contributed over $2 million in actual dollars to local and regional groups over the past decade, and this year’s total brings the overall charity contribution to nearly $4.5 million in the tournament’s 23-year history. Those funds have gone to more than 100 charities and groups.
“Many tournaments have one or a few charities that benefit,” Jones said. “Our model has always been to have as many groups and as many people as possible involved. There are so many groups that help us put on the event, and these groups do great work all year long. It’s very special to us when we can help them because we know it makes a difference in a lot of lives.”
Jones and Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana chairman John Paul Darden presented the checks after presentations by Nancy Marcantel of the Animal Rescue Foundation of Louisiana, Jenny Krueger of the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra and Ryane Broussard of Maddie’s Footprints, a support group for those who have lost infants to premature death.
“None of this would be possible without our sponsors,” Jones said. “We’ve been here for 23 years and for 22 years the Chitimacha Tribe has been with us. We think we have the best partner on Tour.”
Darden said the tournament sponsorship and the other youth and culture programs sponsored by the Chitimacha Tribe are possible because of the success of the tribe’s Cypress Bayou Casino in Charenton.
“We’re glad and honored that we can do this,” Darden said. “We support Acadiana and Acadiana supports us. We’ve been able to do this for a long time and we plan to continue as sponsor.”
The Louisiana Open is one of only two PGA Tour-sponsored events in Louisiana along with the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Jones said that the 2015 edition of the Open is set for March 23-29 at Le Triomphe, the host course for the Open since its 1992 inception.