Commitments are secured from nearly two dozen professional golfers – including 2016 PGA Champion Jimmy Walker and LPGA Major winner and 2016 Olympian Lexi Thompson – to join foursomes of philanthropic amateur players from Southwest Florida when The Immokalee Foundation’s annual Charity Classic Pro-Am tees up this fall to benefit local youth.
Board member Kevin Johnson is tournament chairman for the fifth consecutive year, organizing the tournament with professional golfer Mark Lye, a Golf Channel analyst who is one of the nonprofit’s Pro-Am founders. The scramble-style competition will be held Monday, Nov. 14, at Bay Colony Golf Club, Naples. Each amateur foursome will be paired with a different professional player for the first and second nine holes during an exclusive pairings party at The Old Collier Golf Club on Nov. 13.
The 10th annual tournament is attracting stellar talent. “This year will almost certainly be the best as far as the pros go,” Johnson said, adding the golfers are some of the biggest names on the PGA and LPGA tours. “Jimmy Walker just won the 2016 PGA Championship, and Lexi Thompson just returned from representing the United States at the 2016 Olympics. It’s a great field of generous professionals.”
Walker, who just won the 2016 PGA Championship, is a five-time winner and currently ranked 15th in the world and 14th in the FedEx Cup rankings.
Thompson has seven LPGA victories as the number 4-ranked player in the world, with 42 top-10 finishes. The 2012 Rookie of the Year also won the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship and tied for third in Round 3 of the Women’s Individual competition at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The roster of who’s who on the links includes many who were born in – or later adopted – Florida as home: Shaun Micheel, Bobby Clampett, George McNeill, Chris DiMarco, Briny Baird, Lexi Thompson, Casey Kennedy and Michelle McGann, as well as Dudley Hart, who joined the PGA tour straight from the University of Florida and now lives in Naples.
Ryder Cup players include Walker and DiMarco, who is also a Presidents Cup player.
Thompson, 21 from Coral Springs, will be the youngest pro in the tournament, followed by Kennedy of Venice, 24. McGann, of West Palm Beach, a seven-time LPGA winner who has been a professional for 27 years, is topped in LPGA longevity among the women only by Kris Tschetter, a 28-year pro.
The Charity Classic Pro-Am begins Monday morning with registration, breakfast and a shotgun start at 9 a.m. Lunch and an awards presentation follow the tournament. Bay Colony Golf Club is located at 9740 Bent Grass Bend in Naples.
Entry fees begin at $5,000. All Pro-Am golfers will receive two tickets to the 2016 Charity Classic Celebration, which takes place Friday, Nov. 11 at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.
Board members Don O’Neill, Mac McDonald and Jay “Dick” Stonesifer are coordinating the dinner and auction. The Immokalee Foundation’s 25th anniversary event theme, “25 Years of We Are Immokalee,” highlights the successes of the nonprofit’s programs and students through the support of the community.
Parker Collier, who joined with other community leaders to found The Immokalee Foundation in 1991, will serve as honorary chair for this year’s milestone event.
Corporate sponsors of this year’s events are Florida Community Bank, Presenting sponsor; Arthrex Inc. and Caterpillar Inc., Partner Circle sponsors; Kelly Tractor, Education Circle sponsor; Naples Illustrated and Naples Daily News, Media sponsors; Huntington Bank, Success Circle sponsor; Hertz Global Holdings, Fifth Third Bank, Mercedes-Benz of Naples, MidwestOne Bank, Progress Rail – A Caterpillar Corporation and Sabadell Bank, Pathways Circle sponsors; Northern Trust, Table sponsor; and Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, Pairings Party sponsor.
The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, its signature events, volunteering as a mentor, making a donation, including the foundation in your estate plans, or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.