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Church of Golf

The faithful head to the Albertsons Boise Open

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For many, golf is not a sport, it's a religion. Their places of worship are found on the manicured fairways and greens of courses around the world, their ministers dressed in collared shirts and slacks. It doesn't matter if they're walking the links or staring transfixed at their televisions, golf is a serious matter.

In Boise, there aren't many opportunities for devotees to worship en masse, instead they have to be content with private observations or gathering around a TV to catch a round of whatever professional tournament is being broadcast that weekend.

But for one glorious week each year, Treasure Valley members of the Church of Golf have the chance to celebrate what has become the high holiday of the sport in the Boise area: the Albertsons Boise Open Presented by Kraft.

For the last 20 years, the tournament at Hillcrest Country Club has been a stop along the 29-tournament Nationwide Tour, which is owned by the PGA tour. This year, 156 players will compete for a share of the $725,000 purse with the winner walking away with $130,500.

Tournament practice rounds were held on Sept. 14, with pro/am play filling the schedule on Sept. 15-16, but tournament play doesn't begin until Thursday, Sept. 17, and lasts through Sunday, Sept. 20. While no cost is too great for the most devout golf follower, the Boise Open provides a rare affordable opportunity for even the most cash-strapped golfer to take in the action. Daily tickets are only $10 and weekly tickets are just $25, allowing the faithful to attend all four rounds.

But what has made this tournament such a signature event in the Treasure Valley goes beyond golf. Over its history, the tournament has donated millions of dollars to local nonprofits. This year's event will push the total to more than $10 million in donations, according to Patrick Siver, tournament director with Jeff Sanders Promotions.

Siver said while most other Nationwide Tour events take in roughly $100,000 annually for charity, Boise cleared more than $1 million just last year. He attributes the figure to the strong sponsorship by Supervalu, which now owns Alberstons, as well as "phenomenal" community support. That support can be seen in the more than 1,000 volunteers who help with the tournament, as well as the fact that the Boise event has one of the highest attendance levels on the entire tour.

This year, 134 area nonprofits will benefit from the Boise Open, with many getting not only a portion of the event proceeds, but also money through the Sara Lee Tickets Fore Charity program. Through Tickets for Charity program, participating nonprofits can sell event tickets and keep 100 percent of the proceeds. Even people buying tickets online have to designate a charity that will benefit from that particular sale.

And while nonprofits have taken serious hits in their fundraising this year, Siver said tournament officials are still optimistic that proceeds will stay on course. But golf fans benefit from the Boise Open as well, simply with the chance to check out some of the top up-and-coming golfers in the world.

In fact, two-thirds of golfers on the PGA Tour played on the Nationwide Tour, which has brought them through Boise every year since the tour was founded as the Ben Hogan Tour. At age 20, the Boise Open has the distinction of being just one of four original tournaments still on the tour.

Siver said the players and support staff love this tour stop as well, something he got a full appreciation of after he requested personal stories for a commemorative edition of the tournament magazine.

"The community has so embraced this tour and this event, and the players sense that," he said.

For those looking to put in some worship time on the course this week, daily tickets are available at the gate, while weekly tickets are available online at albertsonsboiseopen.com. Parking for the event is free at Hillcrest Plaza (on the corner of Overland and Orchard) and a free shuttle runs fans to the entrance gate. Check the Web site for more details.:

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