Golfers looking for a fun day of golf and a chance to help veterans of the US armed forces have been invited to take part in “The World’s Largest Golf Outing.” Held at 150 courses around the country, proceeds from the annual event are used to provide housing for families of injured military veterans.
The event will take place locally on Monday, August 5, at Falmouth Country Club in East Falmouth. The WGLO was created in 2011 by Peter Hill, the chief executive officer of Billy Casper Golf, the company hired by the Town of Falmouth to operate Falmouth Country Club.
All of the golf courses around the country that are operated by Billy Casper Golf hold the same event on the same day—thus the event’s name.
Falmouth Country Club is the only golf course in Massachusetts managed by Billy Casper Golf.
The event is a four-person scramble tournament. On each hole, each player hits from the tee, but after that, they play from the point of the best hit shot in their group.
The cost to participate is $79 per player, with $10 from that fee going directly to Fisher House Foundation. The entry fee also pays for a riding cart, a warm-up bucket of balls to hit at the course’s driving range, the cookout lunch, and the prizes, according to Matthew Burgess, head golf professional at Falmouth Country Club.
The event will be held on Falmouth Country Club’s 18-hole, Par 72 Osprey Course. Golfers can register to play the day of the tournament, starting at 8 AM. Play starts at 9 AM and should take until 1:30 PM. An awards luncheon takes place following play.
For the first several years of its existence, the tournament’s beneficiary was the Wounded Warrior Project, a charity that provided assistance to returning US military veterans. In 2016, however, the WWP ran up against a national financial scandal.
The organization was accused of spending millions in donations meant for veterans on a lavish conference held at a five-star hotel. Other reports of fiscal malfeasance included parties, generous employee perks and high salaries.
The WWP was ultimately cleared of the accusations as the result of a Better Business Bureau audit of the company’s finances. Billy Casper Golf, however, had already decided to distance itself from the WWP, and aligned itself with another veterans’ support group, the Fisher House Foundation.
Fisher House Foundation has been in existence for nearly 30 years. It was founded in 1990 by Zachary Fisher, a New York-based real estate and construction tycoon. Pauline Trost, the wife of Admiral Carlisle A.H. Trost, former chief of naval operations, made Mr. Fisher aware of the need for housing for military families during hospitalization of a loved one.
Mr. Burgess likened Fisher House to the Ronald McDonald House, the charity that provides housing for families of children who are being treated for a serious illness.
The charity reports that more than 80 Fisher Houses are operating in the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. Referred to as “comfort homes,” the facilities provide a free home away from home for families of patients getting medical care at major military and Veterans Administration medical centers.
“Families can stay for an unlimited amount of time,” Mr. Burgess said. “It can be one night, it can be a year. They’ve had people stay for multiple years.”
Accommodations are free, Mr. Burgess said. Fisher House records show that, in its nearly 30 years of existence, it has served 368,000 military families, and saved them a total of $451 million in lodging and transportation costs.
For the WLGO, Mr. Burgess said, every par 3 hole will have a hole-in-one prize, and a closest- to-the-pin prize. There will also be one hole with a prize for the longest drive. He said the idea is that the more prizes given out, the more interest generated.
“Then hopefully, next year, people talk about it and they come back,” he said. “I’ve already seen names of people who’ve signed up that play every year.”
Participants are also encouraged to fundraise on their own for the Fisher House Foundation, Mr. Burgess said. He said that people can create a team, then set up a donation page at the WLGO page on the Falmouth Country Club website.
The person who collects the most donations will win a special, as yet unspecified prize, he said. They are also flown to Billy Casper Golf’s corporate headquarters in Virginia. There, they take part in a nationwide grand prize drawing. Two years ago, the team from Falmouth won an all-expenses-paid weekend at Bay Hill Golf Course in Orlando that included up to three rounds of golf.
“You didn’t put your hand in your pocket the whole time,” Mr. Burgess said. “All your meals were paid for, all the golf was paid for, and the restaurants were top-notch.”
The Fisher House Foundation offers other programs that support service member families. Its Hero Program allows people to donate frequent flyer mile and hotel points to be used by families visiting recovering veterans. Newman’s Own Award is a grant program supporting other military charities, and the foundation also provides scholarships to spouses and children of military families.
Two charity watchdog groups have given Fisher House Foundation its top ratings. Charity Navigator gave it four stars out of a possible four. Charity Watch graded it A-plus.
Despite that, Mr. Burgess acknowledged that Fisher House does not have the same name recognition as the WWP. He noted that, in 2016, when the change was made to Fisher House, participation dropped off precipitously, along with the total money raised by the tournament.
Records show that in 2015, the event raised $1,024,287 nationally, with 12,397 golfers playing across the country. The next year, the year of the WWP scandal and the switch to Fisher House, money raised dropped to less than half that of the previous year, $418,455 and only 7,474 golfers.
Last year, donations dipped to $345,033, with only 5,180 participants. The worst year occurred in 2017 when the Golf Channel, a major sponsor of the event, decided to change the date from its traditional day in early August to early May.
Mr. Burgess said that the Northeast has typically been the region that generates the most donations, but far fewer people in the northeastern states are playing golf that time of year, particularly on Cape Cod, than they are in August. The event only raised $294,240 nationwide that year.
With a return to the August date, Mr. Burgess said he has high hopes for this year’s fundraising.
“This year, I could easily see us getting to $600,000, $700,000, which would be unbelievable,” he said.