PGA TOUR Wives Association celebrates 35 years of meaningful impact
Written by Doug Milne @PGATOUR
After hosting its first “Blessings in a Backpack” initiative 13 years ago, coinciding with the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii, members of the PGA TOUR Wives Association were invited to a local Honolulu school for the chance to meet food-insecure students they had helped.
Amy Wilson, wife of PGA TOUR member Mark Wilson and then-president of the association, recalled a “beautiful ceremony” from the school as a way of thanking the wives for their support. In closing remarks on behalf of students and staff, the head of school made a statement that resonated deeply with Wilson and, as well as any set of words can, eloquently described the essence of the PGA TOUR Wives Association: “You come as guests, but you leave as family.”
“After hearing those words, I took that thought with me to every community we traveled to,” said Wilson, joined the PGA TOUR Wives Association in 2002. “As wives and girlfriends, we are brought together because of the PGA TOUR players. So, while we come in not knowing each other, thanks to the PGA TOUR, we do become a family.”
Inspiring, no doubt. But, on an even more impressive level, the family that is the PGA TOUR Wives Association serves to enhance the lives of other families, children and communities all across the country.
With resounding success, the association has been at it for a long time. Thirty-five years, to be exact.
Inspired by the charitable platform from which a large part of the PGA TOUR operates, the wives of the players realized they could effectively raise money and support for the charities and communities tied to each week’s TOUR stop.
In 1988, the PGA TOUR Wives Association became incorporated and official. In addition to countless hours of volunteering by hundreds of TOUR wives and significant others, the association is credited for having donated more than $5 million to child-related charities in the cities and towns that host TOUR events.
“We’re part of such a unique sport in that every guy out on the PGA TOUR is fighting for their job week in and week out,” said Casey Sloan, wife of PGA TOUR player Roger Sloan, and the association’s current president. “But the PGA TOUR does have such a strong sense of family and community. The PGA TOUR Wives Association brings us all together with a common goal, a better purpose.”
Video: In 2014, the PGA Tour Wives Association helped break ground on a new garden at Engelhard Elementary in Louisville, Kentucky. They shared with children a message of stewardship and healthy living.
At May’s AT&T Byron Nelson, The PGA TOUR Wives Association’s 35th Anniversary Gala will serve multiple purposes. On one hand, it’s a significant fundraising effort to get the wheels in motion for all the need that remains. It’s also a time to pause and raise a glass for all the lives enhanced and communities bettered through the Association’s first 35 years.
“The PGA TOUR Wives Association is incredibly near and dear to me, as it is with all the other wives, because we are giving back to the golfing communities we travel to week in and week out,” said Jenna Hughes, VP of Special Events and Members, and wife of PGA TOUR player Mackenzie Hughes. “The 35th Anniversary Gala is something we’ve been working on for a full year. It’s now here and so exciting to see how it has all come together.”
“We’re so excited about the 35th anniversary gala Tuesday in Frisco, Texas,” said Kelly Hoge, wife of TOUR player Tom Hoge. “This couldn’t have happened without our president, Casey Sloan. She had the vision for this and was truly the one who brought it to life. The objective of the evening is to raise a lot of money largely from an incredible silent auction, with all proceeds going towards children and families in need. It’s just great to have the chance to hold the Gala as a fundraising opportunity.”
Hughes looks at the strong 35-year run of the association and marvels at the complete body of work the group has authored, with so many communities along the PGA TOUR’s path experiencing the positive impact.
Pictured: In 2019, the PGA TOUR Wives hit TPC Scottsdale for Blessings in a Backpack and embraced a ‘hilarious’ 1980s theme. The group funds the Blessings in a Backpack program at Nevitt Elementary School in Phoenix.
“We’ve given back more than $5 million to charities over the years,” Hughes said. “Everything that everyone has done has just been fantastic. The amazing part of the organization is that we’ve seen so many people from the organization come and go, depending on the stage of that person’s life. That helps the organization keep a fresh outlook every few years.”
“I’m so proud of all the wives who have been a part of PGA TOUR Wives Association, before and after my time,” said Wilson, who served as president for seven years. “It’s a blessing to be able to travel with your husband or boyfriend and be a part of the team, but it’s such a wonderful thing that the PGA TOUR Wives Association has this kind of history and tradition.”
Wilson noted that when wives and/or significant others are on the road most weeks, it becomes difficult to give back on a regular basis at home. But, the PGA TOUR Wives Association provides a wonderful opportunity to give back to the road which, interestingly, has become their home.
“The PGA TOUR Wives Association is a large, diverse group of women who come from different lives, different cities and different backgrounds,” said Hughes. “But, we are all brought together for one singular purpose; to help make a positive difference in each community we travel to.”
Reflecting on the last 35 years and, specifically, the years they’ve been personally involved with the PGA TOUR Wives Association, many of today’s members have seen and done a lot. And, while it hasn’t always been easy on the heart going in, the end result is what keeps them going.
Among the charities the Association works with annually is “Beds for Kids” in Charlotte, North Carolina. After collecting gently used furniture and mattresses, the organization goes in and furnishes homes.
Sloan, who started with the PGA TOUR Wives Association in 2014, recalls one such visit to the home of a grandmother who had recently received custody of her grandkids.
When she and the other members of the association entered the home to help decorate, what she saw stopped her in her tracks. An upside-down cooler in the middle of the kitchen floor was surrounded by four upside-down paint buckets. The cooler served as the dining room table, while the buckets acted as chairs.
“We experience first-hand where the money we donate goes,” Hughes said. “With the ‘Beds for Kids’ experience, the family was just blown away by everything provided for them. The sad reality is that a lot of people have never had a bed, a couch or even a table to eat meals from. There are actual tears coming out of their eyes. Tears of appreciation.”
On another occasion several years ago in Las Vegas, working with the “Goodie Two Shoes” Foundation, which provides shoes to underprivileged kids, Sloan recalls one young recipient telling a story that he was one of five kids in his family, with only four pairs of shoes to go around. The last one out of bed in the morning missed out on footwear and did not get to attend school that day.
Pictured: The PGA TOUR Wives Association teamed up against their husbands in the RSM Classic’s annual “Wiffle Ball Classic” to raise money for Blessings in a Backpack. Since the Classic began in 2011, the event has raised more than $200,000 to provide weekend food for children who might otherwise go hungry.
“It just goes to show what a huge impact one can make by doing something seemingly so small,” Sloan said. “It has nothing to do with us, but is everything about those in need and helping change lives for the better.”
Adds Wilson, “It feels really good to be a part of something that makes a difference. It’s not like we just blow into town, play golf and leave. We are a part of that community and that annual social calendar.”
The PGA TOUR Wives Association not only finds ways to bring communities together, but also can help expose existing charities to a community. Through the help and support of PGA TOUR Wives Association in the different cities and towns, residents who may not have previously known certain types of support existed gain a greater perspective on their hometowns.
“It has been incredibly special to connect with all these women who share the passion of giving back with me,” Hoge said. “For us to be able to go in together and leave a lasting impact in the communities where the TOUR plays is what it is all about.”
“PGA TOUR Wives Association members come from, literally, all over the world,” Wilson noted. “We speak different languages, have different ethnicities and traditions. So, it’s great to have this common thread to bring us all together. It’s just beautiful and was such an incredible thing to be a part of.”
Actually, it’s an incredible family to be a part of.
The PGA TOUR Wives Association was incorporated in 1988 by wives of professional golfers on the PGA TOUR. With PGA TOUR events serving as a major platform for charity, the wives found themselves in a unique position to be an effective source of funds and support for the charities and the children they benefit. Since its inception, the Association has expanded its membership to include Korn Ferry Tour wives, significant others of both the PGA TOUR and Korn Ferry Tour, and individuals and companies who support the Association’s charitable endeavors. The PGA TOUR Wives Association has given back to our golfing communities and child-related charities through volunteerism and over $5,000,000 in contributions. In addition to fundraising, members participate in Volunteer Service Projects, performing a myriad of services in communities where tournaments are held.
For more information about the 35th Anniversary Gala in Frisco, Texas, which includes a terrific line of silent auction items, visit PGATWA.cbo.io