Courses hosting events for charities are as ubiquitous in our game as balls, tees and clubs. Everyone does it, from the most exclusive private clubs in the world to the most open and inexpensive municipal courses in the country. It’s also not unusual for golf operators to partner with charities in long-term fundraising agreements for two or three events a year into perpetuity. But what happens when the course itself is a charity, when the golf operation – from the clubhouse, to the maintenance, to the carts, programming and all things in between – functions as a tax-deductible charity, part of a cause much greater than the rounds and revenue it runs through?
That is something you don’t see every day. But it is exactly how Clearview Golf Club and the Clearview Legacy Foundation outside Canton, Ohio, operate. And in June, the course and its mission brought out some of the best female players in the game to raise awareness and funds.
On June 28th, the Monday after the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club, nine LPGA Tour pros participated in a clinic and pro-am at the Bobby Jones Golf Course, just a couple of miles from the urban towers of the Southeast’s largest city. The tour pros - Mariah Stackhouse, Mo Martin, Tiffany Joh, Jane Park, Maria Fassi, Leona Maguire, Brianna Do, Lauren Kim, Emma Talley and Caroline Inglis – were the stars. If this had been a normal pro-am, they would have received all the attention. But each of those pros, along with the more than 100 school-aged children and another hundred participants and sponsors, were captivated by the words and presence of Clearview’s matriarch, Renee Powell.
“I turned pro on June 28th of 1967, so this date is the 54th anniversary of me turning pro and this year is the 75th anniversary of my father building Clearview Golf Club so this is a special time,” Powell said. “My dad (Bill Powell) built the first nine holes at Clearview, literally, by hand with a shovel and a seed bag around his neck. He had just come back from Great Britain after the war. He could play golf over there. Every town had a golf course and he felt very welcome. But to his surprise he realized that not too much had changed at home and he wasn’t welcome at golf clubs in Ohio. So, he built his own course where everyone was welcome regardless of race or gender, where you were from or what you did.
“My father wanted everyone to be treated equally in the game.”
Bill Powell’s vision of an open-to-all golf course was revolutionary 75 years ago. At that time, he could not join the PGA of America because of the “Caucasian Only” clause the association had in its bylaws until 1963. Undeterred, the veteran built what is now a historical landmark and one of the few courses in America that operates as a 501(c3) non-profit. More than selling green fees and golf balls, the mission of The Clearview Legacy Foundation is to educate youth on the values of colorblind inclusion, and the integrity that the game teaches.
“The next 75 years, the message of Clearview is to continue to bring people together through golf,” Renee Powell said that Monday in Atlanta. “The game doesn’t discriminate. The ball doesn’t know your race. If you hit it good you play well and if you don’t, well, you have to live with the consequences. My father thought there was a life lesson there. And we continue that message at Clearview today.”
The cause exceeds one pro-am in one city. KPMG, the title sponsor of the Women’s PGA Championship, already has agreed to sponsor events the Monday after each championship in the foreseeable future. In 2022, the Clearview fundraiser will take place in suburban Washington DC after the conclusion of the championship at Congressional Country Club. And in 2023, it will be held in northern New Jersey after the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship is played at Baltusrol.
“When we first heard about the Clearview Legacy Foundation and the need that was there, we were so inspired to get involved,” said Sean Quill, the national sports leader for KPMG US. “Along with Mariah Stackhouse and the LPGA, we came together and, hopefully, will be a catalyst for change that is needed to not only preserve this historical landmark but to ensure that there is more awareness around the need to cultivate diversity in the game of golf and overall.”
Stackhouse has long been a brand ambassador for KPMG. But she has known about Clearview and the Powells for much longer.
“My parents were very intentional about teaching me the history of the game and about pioneers like Bill Powell and Renee Powell and what they did to advance the game, not just for minority golfers but for everyone,” Stackhouse said. “I think that events like this can be part of a vehicle for change. Clearview Golf Course and what it stands for in breaking barriers and bringing all people together through the game of golf, that’s what we hope will continue. That’s why we’re here today.”
The LPGA also got involved with the help of one of the tour’s most popular players. Michelle Wie West reached out to LPGA Tour chief brand and communications officer, Roberta Bowman with the idea of creating a tie-dyed hoodie, the proceeds from which would go to the Clearview Legacy Foundation.
The hoodie, which became a social media hit, particularly among NBA players like Steph Curry, is the best selling item in LPGA merchandising history.
“Renee Powell and her family play a singular role in the history of African Americans in golf,” Bowman said. “Renee is a global ambassador for the game and continues to use golf as a means for inclusion. We are proud to be part of this effort to celebrate Renee and her family and preserve Clearview Golf Club and its mission of providing a place where all people can enjoy the game.”
At the end of the June event in Atlanta, Powell was in tears as she was awarded a check for more than a quarter of a million dollars. She wasn’t the only one who had her emotions moved, though.
“Growing up as an Asian American in the early 90s, I know what it’s like to be different on the golf course,” Tiffany Joh said. “That’s why events like this and people like Renee Powell are so inspiring and so important. We have come such a long, long way in the game. But events like this are reminders that we need to keep moving forward.”