Tom Lehman lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., but he views life through a Midwestern lens.
He was born and raised in Minnesota, and attended college there, before reaching golf’s biggest stage. Lehman won four times on the Web.com Tour. He won five times on the PGA TOUR, including the 1996 British Open. And he’s won 10 times on the PGA TOUR Champions. He is the only golfer to be named player of the year on all three tours.
Lehman has covered a lot of miles, and been in a lot of states, during his career. But the Midwest remains close to his heart. He can relate to the people, and he knows a good thing when he sees it.
“The PGA TOUR Champions belongs in cities like Des Moines,” Lehman said during last week’s Principal Charity Classic at the Wakonda Club. “Big cities like these are major areas, but it’s not Los Angeles, it’s not Atlanta, it’s not Chicago. The people here support the tournament. They come out and make us feel so good. They raise a lot of money for local charities. So I think it’s really a win-win for the PGA TOUR Champions and a win-win for Des Moines.”
Brandt Jobe won for the first time in the PGA TOUR Champions career, receiving a check for $262,500. But once again, charity will be the biggest winner.
Dan Houston, the chairman, president and CEO of Principal, said that he expects this year’s tournament to raise in excess of $2 million for charity. The 2016 tournament raised a record $2,053,725 for the six designated charities – Blank Children’s Hospital, Bravo Greater Des Moines, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, Mercy Medical Center, United Way of Central Iowa and Variety – the Children’s Charity of Iowa – as well as the Birdies for Charity partners.
This year’s event is expected to push the number of charity dollars well past the $10 million milestone since Principal became title sponsor in 2007.
That’s some serious win-win.
So are the 1,221 volunteers who stepped up and offered a helping hand. Those volunteers came from 14 states, with ages ranging from 10 to 88.
Raising money for charity is behind Principal’s decision to serve as title sponsor. But Houston will tell you that to make this community a better place, the community needs to be involved. Mission accomplished.
This year, a record 375 corporate sponsors stepped up. That includes everything, from big corporations to family-run businesses.
The Wakonda Club, serving as the host for the fifth year, was a winning partner as well. And players raved about the outstanding conditions of the course, despite the hot, dry conditions.
Despite that heat, a total of 81,550 fans came through the gates during the three days of competition. That included 30,412 on championship Sunday.
This year’s event started in earnest on Friday with an emotional, moving ceremony that included first responders. Des Moines police, led by Chief Dana Wingert, were well represented. Des Moines firefighters took part as well.
On Sunday, Jobe got more than a check. There was also a trophy to take back home to Argyle, Texas. And Wingert presented Jobe with a Des Moines Police Department dress uniform jacket on the 18th green.
As Jobe and Wingert stood side by side, and the fans showed their respect with a stirring ovation, it was pretty evident that the Principal Charity Classic is more than a golf tournament.
It’s a way to thank those who serve, and to help improve and shape Greater Des Moines moving forward with those charity dollars.
As Lehman would say, that’s a win-win.
By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter