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Mike Bates, left, congratulates Supporia Goode, center, at this year's Daikin America golf tournament at the Robert Trent Jones golf course in Muscle Shoals earlier this month. Goode, in her first golf outing, hit a drive on the par-3, 18th hole to within five feet of the cup. But the real congratulations goes to Daikin America, which raised $345,000 for the United Way of Morgan Country by hosting the tournament.
Daily file photo by Jonathan Palmer
Mike Bates, left, congratulates Supporia Goode, center, at this year's Daikin America golf tournament at the Robert Trent Jones golf course in Muscle Shoals earlier this month. Goode, in her first golf outing, hit a drive on the par-3, 18th hole to within five feet of the cup. But the real congratulations goes to Daikin America, which raised $345,000 for the United Way of Morgan Country by hosting the tournament.

$345,000 for 18 holes of golf
Daikin tourney believed to be nation's top United Way fundraising event

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

The 18 holes that make up the Fighting Joe links at The Shoals are among the longest fairways in the state.

But the first Robert Trent Jones golf course to surpass 8,000 yards can't outdistance the number of dollar bills raised at this year's Daikin America fundraiser for United Way.

In fact, to cross the entire course, you would need more than seven rows to lay every dollar end-to-end that the tournament made almost three weeks ago.

The 11th annual event raised $345,000 this year, allowing it to maintain its claim as the largest single event fundraiser for United Way nationwide.

Daikin America Chairman Cliff Adams hardly seems surprised by the success of the tourney he started in 1996, but he does seem a bit surprised, if not bothered, that other similar-sized industries have not duplicated its success.

"We're talking potentially millions of dollars that could come into this community if other industries would do it," he said. "The beauty of it is that the big part of the dollars that come to our tournament are from out of city, out of state, out of region."

Daikin invites its vendors and suppliers to participate. Hundreds are on the list: raw material suppliers, maintenance and construction contractors, equipment and uniform suppliers, and Daikin's 401(k) and insurance providers.

The cost to play was $1,000 per golfer, up $250 from last year, and 130 of Daikin's vendors agreed to sponsor at least one player. Fifteen of those companies were $10,000 sponsors.

"We're not going to Joe Blow on the street. We're going to people we're spending big dollars with," Adams said. "If we're spending $1 million with you, I don't mind asking you to give $1,000 to the community."

Other Decatur industries can apply the same leverage on their suppliers, he said, and companies participating in his tournament are different from the suppliers of Decatur's other major industries.

One key aspect that makes it easier to ask for the sponsors, Adams added, is they know every dollar they spend goes to United Way. Daikin covers the cost of the tournament, which includes greens fees, breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks, a dinner for the $10,000 sponsors and all types of prizes.

Some of the sponsors donate prizes, and some local businesses, such as restaurants and hotels, donate free meals and room nights as door prizes. But Daikin provides many other prizes each player receives, such as golf balls, umbrellas, hats and wind shirts. The four players on the winning teams each received $75 gift certificates to the course pro shop.

Adams wouldn't divulge the amount Daikin spends to underwrite the tournament, other than it is substantial.

"But it's worth it," he said. "I can still see the day (the tournament) is going to hit half a million and keep going up."

235 players

The 2007 tournament drew 235 players, the same as last year. By increasing the sponsorship from $750 to $1,000, the tournament made an additional $34,000.

That increase alone is more than most golf fundraisers make in Decatur. Most of those are organized by charitable organizations, which don't have leverage to put on sponsors, and they must use part of the proceeds to pay for greens fees and prizes.

The Enrichment Center, for example, made $48,000 from its golf outing in May that drew 128 players. It spent $17,000, leaving $31,000 to go toward helping people pay for its family counseling services.

Wayne Farms started a tournament several years ago and initially helped Rebuilding Together. This year, it generated more than $26,000 for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.

Like Daikin, Wayne covered all expenses, so all the money went to the charity. It also drew its support from vendors and suppliers outside the community who paid $500 to sponsor a four-person team.

Nova Chemicals made $7,500 by getting $300 for each four-person team. Its money goes toward the company's Children's Charitable Fund that provides Christmas presents and school supplies.

Start small

Adams said he got the idea from a previous employer. He advises starting small and gradually increase the sponsorship requirements and gradually make the tournament more attractive.

"We do a golf tournament because I like golf," he said, "but you could do anything. A bass tournament for instance, or even bowling. It doesn't matter."

The Daikin tournament represents about a fifth of United Way's $1.8 million goal this year.

United Way of Morgan County Director George Pollitt said it's great to have that kind of support, but it's also a growing concern that so much of the campaign now depends on one company.

Daikin's employees also donated $38,350, which the corporate office matched dollar for dollar.

"We definitely need to spread our resources and get more companies involved in the campaign," he said.

2007 campaign status

The 2007 United Way of Morgan County campaign has reached $444,355. The amount represents 24.6 percent of the $1.8 million goal.

To get involved, call 353-6643.

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