SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Like most non-profit organizations, funding was always the biggest challenge for the First Tee of Savannah during the first 14 years it existed.
The newly formed First Tee of Savannah is still waiting for its charter. But they are not waiting in place.
“We’ve worked with the national First Tee. We have a few things we still need to get to them on the new chapter side, but we’re very close on that. we have our board formed, we have out leadership team,” said First Tee Board Member Alex Messinger.
And they now also have a start toward the financial stability that was lacking when the organization that teaches golf and life skills to young people folded here two years ago.
The new First Tee held its first fundraiser last week - an online auction of golf opportunities at exclusive clubs across the country that exceeded even the ambitious hopes for it.
“We had over 50 golf courses on the list and it raised $144,999 in a seven-day auction.”
“We set a budget at $100,000 and even as board members, we felt we were just coming back, maybe we should trim back. But we just said, let’s just set it and if we make it awesome and if we don’t, we know what to build on for our next fundraiser. But two days into it at $76,000, I said ‘oh, my God.’ It was overwhelming,” said First Tee Board Member Teia Acker Moore.
The Member for a Day auction was so successful because of the quality of clubs available.
People paid thousands of dollars for the chance to play U.S. Open courses such as Winged Foot, Congressional, Merion and Baltusrol - while the highest bid was for a foursome at the ultra-exclusive Ohoopee Match Club in Tattnall County.
But the support of the event was also a sign that the new First Tee can be a success as well.
“Most of the time when fundraising on something at this level, you see a lot of outside support. But to see the community wrap around this program, even in the middle of a pandemic and so close to the holidays, I was overly impressed.”
“The majority of the support and connections that were made all came from the Savannah Community. And from that, it just grew and friends calling friends in other parts of the country and then it was able to really grow from there,”
“This showed us that people really trust what the First Tee has to offer and we’re just excited to deliver what they believe in.”
And the WTOC Community Champions bringing back the First Tee believe this auction will help them deliver the program back to Savannah by next summer.
“It’s going to be a significant portion of the annual one-year operating budget for the First Tee. We’re not going to have a full year of operating just because of when our charter will start in 2021, but we are excited about having that, being able to start the First Tee knowing that we have a good runway ahead of us.”
The First Tee board was originally going to hold its Member for a Day auction after the new year. But they think moving it up helped them take advantage of the holiday shopping season.