Charity golf tourneys helping local groups |

Charity golf tourneys helping local groups

CVR golf tourney KA 5-18-12

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Chris Lai leads a pretty simple life this time of year – get up, put in a full day as the head golf pro at the Red Sky Ranch golf club, then go home. That’s one of the reasons Lai loves charity golf tournaments.

Lai said charity tournaments give him a chance to see people he doesn’t usually talk to during the season. Those tournaments are also a chance for local nonprofit groups to bring in a good amount of contributions.

Red Sky will host at least a half-dozen charity tournaments this summer. Vail Resorts, which runs the course, provides the course for free to four nonprofit groups every season. Other groups, including the Vail Academy, pay a nominal fee for those fund-raisers.

For groups, the advantage of having a tournament at Red Sky or other private clubs is a chance for participants to get on a course they can’t play just any time. For the courses, charity events are a chance to help local groups. Those courses also get valuable exposure.

While most participants are local residents, Lai said that so many people in the valley are in the business of talking to guests, Red Sky can get plenty of word-of-mouth advertising.

“Hopefully, if they’re talking about golf, they’re talking about us,” Lai said.

Up the valley at the Sonnenalp Golf Club, director of membership relations Heidi Cofelice agreed that tournaments are a good chance to expose people to a course. That’s a good thing when a club is seeking new members.

But the events at the Sonnenalp are also popular with local players. Cofelice said the annual “Scramble Against Cancer” will fill the course twice. That helps the Sonnenalp Foundation, which has been a staunch supporter of both the Shaw Regional Cancer Center and the Sonnenalp Breast Center.

Beyond those specific events, any number of local nonprofit groups benefit from tournaments.

Steammaster Cleaning and Restoration has held a charity tournament for eight years now, and this year will hold a pair of events – the first is May 31 at Country Club of the Rockies.

That event started after the company lost an employee to cancer, and owner Gary Gilman wanted to help the family. The tournament has since expanded, and has rotated beneficiaries every year, but the Vail Valley Charitable Fund – which helps local residents facing giant medical bills – always gets a share.

“Our goal is to touch everyone,” Steammaster General Manager Raj Manickam said. “And in our case it started with one successful event.”

Manickam gets a lot of good-natured ribbing about the tournaments, since he doesn’t play golf. But, he said, the tournaments are great chance for people from different businesses to get together in a non-working environment.

“It brings the community together,” Manickam said.

And the tournaments can be fun.

Jeff Boyer, the director at the Eagle Ranch Golf Club, has played in his share of charity tournaments. The events are a chance to have some fun, of course. But there’s a bit more to it.

“You may play to win (in a tournament),” Boyer said. “But you don’t want to play for the prizes – you want the bragging rights.”

Still, there can be some good prizes, Boyer said. And the silent auctions that usually go along with tournaments often have some pretty neat items.

“You can usually get something cool for a reasonable amount of money – you can’t lose,” Boyer said.

But in an effort to raise a bit more money, the Steammaster tournaments open up the silent auctions even to those who don’t play golf.

While there are plenty of tournaments in the valley every year, Manickam said he’s not worried about burnout, especially for the established events.

“In the tournaments that sustain themselves, people want to come back,” Manickam said. “Between 80 and 85 percent of our participants are the same people every year.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or