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August 2020

Good Cause Rallies 400 Clubs To Service In Record Time

By Steve Eubanks

Ideas spark action. And sometimes, on those rare occasions when stars align, action, driven by a worthwhile idea, creates a movement.

In late March, as the pandemic sent shock waves through the nation and hospitals began experiencing the first (and ultimately the worst) wave of COVID-19 patients, David Bachman, manager of the Spring Brook Country Club in Morristown, New Jersey, created a charitable foundation called ClubsHELP. An idea sparked by one of his members, Bachman and his club members understood that some clubs had resources to help local hospitals. 

It started on March 27 when the Spring Brook club president, Susan McGahan, reached out to a friend at the Morristown Medical Center and asked if there was anything they needed. The friend told McGahan that the hospital staff was so overwhelmed that many of the staffers, especially in the ER where they were pulling double shifts, hadn’t eaten. McGahan reached out to Bachman, who sent some sandwiches to the hospital from the Spring Brook kitchen.

By the next day, upwards of 30 Spring Brook members asked to buy sandwiches for the hospital. A few days later, when a request for liquids – bottled water and sports drinks – came in, the club sent over four pickup trucks full of drinks to the hospital. Two weeks after that, Bachman sent another two truckloads. 

A week after the first delivery, Bachman made a nationwide television appearance to promote the idea for ClubsHELP, expanding the notion of local clubs helping local hospitals. Within two days, more than 60 clubs signed up for ClubsHELP, thanks in large part to Ernie Els’s and Jack Nicklaus’s involvement.

It wasn’t the first charitable venture Spring Brook and its staff had ever undertaken. They’d had a foundation in place for years and had helped many people within the golf industry and the community through hard times. But this was different. This was more than one club helping local caddies and assistant pros – although those efforts were worthwhile and supported by many at Spring Brook. This was a nationwide effort to rally golf to a larger cause. 
 
“This was all about coordination,” said Rob Goulet, Els’s manager, who helped Bachman take the idea from concept to reality. Goulet had contacts in both the sports and business worlds and quickly helped find law firms to do pro bono work and PR agencies to get the word out. 
 
“When I was asked to support the mission of ClubsHELP Foundation, I was quick to accept,” Nicklaus said. “Barbara and I are proud to be part of a children’s hospital in Miami, one that bears our name, as well as outpatient clinics. They have many, many workers who need our help. These workers are putting their lives on the line battling the COVID-19 virus.”

Goulet was stunned by the meteoric rise of participation. “I’ve never seen something take off like this,” he said. “A big part of it is because it’s all local. Clubs pick captains and they decide what local hospital they are going to help. Those local captains coordinate efforts at the clubs and then challenge other clubs to do likewise.” 

“We’re grassroots,” Bachman said. “We’re in the community with the local hospital and with the trusted partner being the local club, and we’re trying to make things work.”

Work it did. Within a month, Bachman and Goulet had ClubCorp and the National Club Association on board. Shortly thereafter, Arcis, with 61 clubs in 13 states, pledged support. “We recognize that we are part of a larger family and community,” said Arcis founder and CEO Blake Walker. “We believe that we can make the greatest positive impact by doing what we do best – serving our communities through our clubs.”

Two months after the delivery of those first sandwiches to Morristown Medical, ClubsHELP had 400 clubs helping their local communities. The televised match at Seminole Golf Club where Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson defeated Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolfe in sudden death raised $100,000 through ClubsHELP for local South Florida healthcare workers. 

“It’s all about golf club members helping local community hospitals and the people who work there,” Els said. “From my point of view, I’m the captain of our club, but, any golf club around the country, you nominate the hospital that you want to represent and whatever you can gather will help the people on the front lines. We need to help the people in these hospitals in our areas.”

“It’s amazing, really,” Goulet said of the speed with which ClubsHELP took off. “But it goes to show you what the game and the people in it can do when they’re called to action in a time of crisis. Just amazing.”

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