A Jacksonville Web services company has been a driving force behind the University of North Florida becoming a nationally recognized hub for collegiate golf.
Web.com is a dedicated sponsor of UNF’s Hayt Collegiate Invitational, an annual golf tournament hosted by the University that features a field of powerhouse programs from across the country, including Duke University, the University of Florida and Louisiana State University. The Jacksonville-based business contributed last year to both the men’s and women’s UNF golf programs to fund the competition, which takes place at Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach.
David Brown, chairman, president and CEO of Web.com, is an avid golf fan and dedicated supporter of higher education with familial ties to the University — his son and daughter both attended UNF. He views UNF as a valuable asset to the Northeast Florida community and believes that investing in quality education and athletics programs is a boon to the regional economy.
“We have a great relationship with UNF,” Brown said. “Many of our employees are UNF graduates, and many others are currently pursuing degrees there. It only makes sense to support the institution that provides Jacksonville with a strong, educated workforce.”
Brown’s company, which provides Internet services and online marketing solutions for small businesses, has grown exponentially in the past few years, exceeding hiring forecasts in 2012 and doubling revenue from 2011 to 2012. He said Web.com’s gift to both the men’s and women’s golf programs was made to ensure that UNF can continue hosting the Hayt Collegiate Invitational, a popular event in the collegiate golf world. His company also sponsors the Web.com Tour, a national, developmental golf tour that serves as the main gateway for professional golfers to receive a PGA Tour card.
UNF men’s golf coach Scott Schroeder said the talent pool for the Hayt Invitational is one of the best in the nation, and UNF often finds itself atop the leader board. This year’s invitational in February included a 12-shot victory for the Ospreys, beating out Duke for the championship. This marked the second time in four tries that UNF snagged first-place honors. UNF golfer Kevin Phelan celebrated his first individual tournament title at the invitational with a scorching 13-under-par 131, a tournament record for 36 holes. The tournament is named after longtime UNF booster John Hayt, who is the namesake of the University’s Hayt Golf Learning Center. Web.com also supports a yearly intercollegiate women’s golf tournament at Marsh Landing Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach featuring in-state rivals, such as Jacksonville University and the University of Central Florida, and other national programs, including Purdue University and Texas Tech University.
“Web.com is a big part of our program,” Schroeder said. “Their support has been invaluable over the years, and we appreciate the opportunities they give us to focus on excelling against some tough competition.”
Brown said he derives a good deal of personal satisfaction from supporting his favorite sport in his hometown. The Ponte Vedra Beach native has made golf a family tradition to the point that his 10-year-old granddaughter has even picked up the clubs.
“I like golf because it’s a great sport for young people,” Brown said. “It promotes a spirit of collegiality and has an unwritten ethical code. It’s a good, clean competitive sport that tests you physically and mentally. It’s really you against the course out there.”