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Price Cutter's Rob Marsh, right, presents a $126,000 check to last year's Price Cutter Charity Championship winner Harry Higgs.
SBJ file photo
Price Cutter's Rob Marsh, right, presents a $126,000 check to last year's Price Cutter Charity Championship winner Harry Higgs.

Sponsorship, nonprofit dollars threatened by PGA ruling

Posted online

The Price Cutter Charity Championship has hosted an annual golf tournament and provided an avenue for children’s charities to raise money in the Ozarks for 30 years.

But this summer, one thing will be missing: spectators.

The PGA-sanctioned Korn Ferry Tour event is scheduled to stop in Springfield on July 23-26 at Highland Springs Country Club. After getting the go-ahead last month to be the first Korn Ferry Tour event with fans permitted, PGA Tour officials have reversed course, said PCCC Executive Director Jerald Andrews.

The July 7 decision will have a negative impact on the 45 participating nonprofits. The tourney typically draws tens of thousands of fans during the four days of play.

“By not allowing spectators, it impacts several of the sponsorships and what the event can mean for charities this year,” said Andrews, who is also head of the event’s organizing nonprofit Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. “This could and will damage severely what we give to charity this year.”

Like many events nationwide, the coronavirus pandemic has left many planning details up in the air for the 31st year of the event.

For the PCCC, that includes putting millions of dollars on the line. That money is largely raised by sponsorships and nonprofits, said Andrews.

Last year, the PCCC recorded gross cash income of $2.5 million, with event expenses of $1.5 million, he said, which includes half of the tourney’s $700,000 purse money. The other half is provided by Korn Ferry Tour.

After deducting another $103,000 for various staffing and annual expenses, the remaining $952,000 was given to 49 participating children’s charities.

Since the tournament began in 1990, it has raised more than $16.5 million for nonprofits throughout the Ozarks.

Here’s how: Participating nonprofits must “buy-in” or invest at least $5,000 to cover a variety of upfront tournament costs. The money is then refunded to the nonprofits in December, following the event. Nonprofits can participate in several ways, such as becoming a sponsor of exclusive seating or one of the 18 holes, helping run the charity auction or by becoming an advertiser in the spectator guide, which all vary in buy-in price.

Nonprofits can also choose to sell raffle tickets – and keep 100% of the proceeds. In December, checks are presented to the participating nonprofits for various amounts, based on the nonprofit’s initial investment; the amount the group earned by selling raffle tickets or supplying auction items during the event; and a return on their tournament investment, ranging from 2% to 10% based on the event’s success.

Andrews said nonprofits contributed roughly $225,000 last year, representing less than a tenth of the tournament’s annual gross income and about 24% of the money given back to charities.

He said the event has grown from having four benefitting nonprofits to nearly 50 over the last 20 years, which meant the initial charities weren’t seeing as large of a cut of the profits as they used to.

“As this event has grown, we’ve started a program where charities control their own destiny,” said Andrews. “The harder you work, the more money you make.”

The championship’s main sponsor, Price Cutter, has been the lead sponsor for 22 years. Andrews would only say the title sponsorship is in the several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He said Price Cutter’s vendors also give the PCCC food for all of the volunteers, players, caddies and sponsors, saving the tournament $100,000 a year that is then passed on to charities.

Additional money is raised from sponsorship agreements with hundreds of for-profit companies, volunteer payments and nominal ticket sales, he said, adding tickets generally run $10 a day. The event’s 1,000-1,200 volunteers pay $45 to put on the PCCC and receive a range of gifts in return, such as memorabilia, a free round of golf at a local course and – typically – free entry for all family members to the tournament.

“Without them, we can’t do it,” Andrews said of nonprofits and volunteers. “This event is a community effort.”

Nonprofit’s take
This year, 45 children’s charities have signed on, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks Inc.

CEO Ashley French said the nonprofit was one of the initial charities to participate over 30 years ago. It typically receives $17,000-$25,000 from the event, including its initial investment, depending on how many raffle tickets they’re able to sell.

“Based on the time you put into it, it’s a good return,” she said. “We really enjoy the partnership.”

This year, French said the nonprofit paid a $6,000 buy-in so that her team can provide items to the auction – of which they’ll receive 100% of the proceeds – as well as helping secure sponsors for the event and volunteer management. If a nonprofit sells a sponsorship, that charity receives one-third of the amount the sponsoring entity signs on for, according to PCCC marketing materials. Andrews said sponsorships range from $100 to $100,000.

At Springfield Dream Center, Executive Director Jody Dow said the nonprofit more than doubled its $6,000 investment last year, the group’s first time participating. This year, the team put down $7,000 to become a hole sponsor. She said the Dream Center participated in the auction last year, but the group doesn’t have the manpower to earn enough money through that avenue because she’s on maternity leave.

“It was worth the return on investment for us because we made the investment back and plus some,” she said. “If we were to host our own golf tournament, we’d maybe make back what we put into it. We get more out of it by being a part of it this way.”

However, Empower: abilities has been scaling back its participation. CEO Shannon Porter said the requirements became overwhelming.

“There’s a lot of effort that … the charities are asked to provide. We don’t really have the manpower for that right now, and we’re finding it’s not the best investment of our time,” Porter said.

In the air
Andrews said many aspects of the PCCC’s future are up in the air as COVID-19 continues its hold on activities.

Now that spectators aren’t allowed, Andrews is concerned sponsors will pull out.

The PCCC typically has nearly 500 sponsors, both nonprofit and for-profit, and roughly 400 sponsors were secured by press time. He said those agreements are usually finalized in March and April, which is when COVID-19 closed many businesses.

Central Bank of the Ozarks has been the official bank of the tournament since the beginning, said bank CEO and President Russ Marquart. He said the bank contributes roughly $50,000 each year, sponsors a tent on hole 18 and several pro-am tournaments.

“We’re all-in. Even if things get canceled, then we’ll still continue to provide that financial support,” said Marquart, who is also a member of the PCCC board. “Ultimately, all the money we raise through the tournament goes back to the children’s charities.”

Andrews said it’s too soon to know the full impact of the PGA Tour’s move, but in an interview with SBJ prior to the decision, Andrews said many expenses would be wasted if spectators couldn’t attend. For example, sponsors put down money to have their ads run on 25,000 pairing sheets printed for spectators.

“It’s worthless. Now, you have thousands of dollars in sponsorship fees that people want back,” he said, though he understands the motive. “From the very beginning, the safety of members, professional players and the safety of our community has been first and foremost. The tour has decided that to protect everyone … they have to make this move.”

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