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The PLAYERS Championship sponsors First Generation scholarships


Mention The PLAYERS Championship and most people probably think of the 17th hole on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass where one of golf's most coveted titles has been won and lost on the island green.


But many golf enthusiasts may be unaware of The PLAYERS Championship role in supporting charitable organizations on the First Coast, including the University of North Florida.


The most recent manifestation of this commitment to UNF occurred recently when The PLAYERS Championship announced a $250,000 pledge to the First Generation Scholarship program. In return, the University named the organization the title sponsor for next year’s annual First Generation luncheon.


Pierre Allaire, vice president of Institutional Advancement, praised The PLAYERS Championship for the organization’s latest gift to UNF. “Over the years, The PLAYERS Championship has demonstrated a commitment to education in general and UNF in particular, which will pay dividends for generations of our students,” he said.


Since all First Generation scholarship donations receive a dollar-for-dollar match by the state, the PLAYERS gift eventually will generate $500,000 for scholarships.


That pleases Jay Monahan, executive director of The PLAYERS Championship, who admits the matching aspect played a role in organization’s decision to make the gift. “If you can double the impact of a gift, especially during the current economic environment, it becomes a very attractive opportunity,” he said.


Monahan is always looking for such opportunities, especially since The PLAYERS Championship provides a great deal of support to Northeast Florida charities — $4.15 million in 2009.


The PLAYERS Championship has a long history of contributions to UNF, including the establishment of the Osprey Hall of Fame, which entailed substantial renovations at the UNF Arena. The organization has also been involved in funding the First Tee program at the Hayt Golf Learning Center. First Tee provides young people with learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development through the game of golf.


The donation to the First Generation Program means The PLAYERS Championship Charities Inc. has donated more than $1 million to UNF, making it a member of the University’s elite Founders Society.


Monahan said the First Generation Scholarship program is a natural investment for The PLAYERS Championship because of the ever-growing relationship with UNF’s students and graduates. “UNF is part of the bedrock of this community, and its students and alumni are an important part of THE PLAYERS,” Monahan said. “UNF graduates, today and in the future, comprise spectators who attend the annual tournament, leading business executives who are sponsors and volunteers who make the event and our charitable outcome a reality each year.           


“Looking back, the investment in the UNF Hall of Fame was inspirational because we honored individuals who made significant contributions to UNF and the community. Looking forward, the First Generation Program gives us an opportunity to inspire young people to continue their education at a very critical point in their lives.”


UNF maintains a strong relationship with The PLAYERS Championship in helping with the logistics of the annual tournament.


The tournament, which generates the charitable contributions, has gone through several transformations since it was established in 1974 in Marietta, Ga., as the Tournament Players Championship. It moved to several locations before being relocated to Ponte Vedra Beach in 1977. Since 1982, it has been played at the Stadium Course at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) at Sawgrass.


The tournament offers the highest prize fund of any tournament in golf, paying out $9.5 million in 2009 and attracting the top golfers from around the world.