When the PGA Tour says it raises big money for local charities, it isn’t kidding: In 2015, Tour events gave more than $160 million to hundreds of charities, large and small. But each tournament has its own unique stories, one of which is being told this week at the Travelers Championship, held outside Hartford, Connecticut.
Among the charities that will benefit are a number devoted to fighting and researching ALS—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”—which attacks nerve cells until sufferers lose the ability to control muscle movement. Tom Watson’s long-time caddie Bruce Edwards (shown above) died of ALS back in 2004, and this year the Travelers is hosting a benefit dinner for the Bruce Edwards Foundation on Friday, August 5, which will feature Watson, award-winning sportswriter John Feinstein (author of a book about Watson and Edwards), and Travelers Executive Chairman Jay F. Fishman, who also has ALS.
Asked about the event, Feinstein said, “After Bruce’s death, I went to Watson with the idea of starting an annual golf tournament in Bruce’s name to raise money for ALS research. We’ve been able to put together a group of golfers, basketball coaches, and media types every year and have raised a little more than $5 million for The Bruce Edwards Foundation.
“A year ago, I got a call from Andy Bessette at Travelers. Apparently, after being diagnosed, Fishman began doing a lot of research on ALS and read about our foundation and the fact that we donate all our money to the Robert Packard Center at Johns Hopkins because the guy who runs the place, Dr. Jeff Rothstein, is the scientist who Watson (who has also done exhaustive research on the disease) believes is going to find the cure. Fishman wanted to hold a dinner during the Hartford event—appropriate, of course, since Bruce first caddied in the old Greater Hartford Open—to raise money for ALS research.
“Bessette said their goal was to sell 100 tables at $10,000 a pop for a dinner and funnel the money through our foundation to Packard. He asked if I would come and speak and if I could get Tom to come, too. Tom and I agreed that he would if they sold 50 tables to clear $250,000 with room to spare. Amazingly, at last count they’ve sold 115 tables, which means it’s a dinner for over 1,000 people that should net close to $1 million.
“They get all the credit. Tom and I are just there to try to make the evening worthwhile enough that people will come back next year.”