Aug 25, 2010 4:08 PM by Melissa Canone
BROUSSARD - The Chitimacha Louisiana Open awarded a total of $142,329.76 in checks to 47 local and regional charities and youth groups Wednesday on what Open officials called "the tournament's best day of the whole year."
The PGA's Nationwide Tour event, annually conducted in late March at Le Triomphe and one of only two PGA Tour-sponsored events in Louisiana, has now contributed over $1.5 million in actual dollars to local and regional charitable causes over the past seven years. This year's total brings the overall charity contribution in the tournament's 19-year history to approximately $3.75 million.
"This is why we're here," said Open executive director Danny Jones after he and new tournament chairman Will Arledge distributed checks from the Open and other events during the 2009-10 fiscal year. "It's one of our two happiest days of the year along with Championship Sunday when we honor our champion.
"It may rank even higher than Championship Sunday, because we get to see the difference we're making. We're here not only to bring professional golf to South Louisiana, but also to raise charity funds and have an impact. Today we get to see that impact."
Representatives from most of the 47 charities and groups were on hand at Abacus Catering to accept the Open's contributions. Most of those groups aid in the staging of the tournament in some capacity, as part of the hundreds of volunteers who make the Open possible.
"We have incredible volunteers," Jones said. "It's not like we just give them a check. They're out there working, and actually generating their own funds. We're just their vehicle to do that."
In all, over 100 charities and groups have benefitted from the Open in its history - a huge percentage of those based in the Acadiana area and a large number aimed at helping young people.
"We're about helping kids," said Arledge. "There are so many groups that help us put on the tournament and that do such great work all year long, and it's special when we can help them because we know it's making a difference in a lot of lives."
Arledge officially took over as chairman at Wednesday's event. Harry Patin, who served for six years in that role and has worked with the tournament for 18 years, remains chairman of the Open's executive board and will be coordinating special events leading up to next March's 20th-anniversary tournament.
The total charitable contribution from the region's biggest single-entity sports event was down from last year's total of approximately $182,000, but Jones said that was expected with the recent economic slowdown.
"We fought through some very difficult times," Jones said. "By most Nationwide Tour standards, $142,000 would be exceptional, but it's not where we want to be. Our goal is to re-energize, move forward with new ideas and try to get back to where we were in mid-decade when we were giving a quarter-million dollars."