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Zach Johnson's Cedar Rapids golf event for kids in need becomes a million-dollar baby

Zach Johnson: Popular in C.R. (Brian Ray photos/SourceMedia Group)
Zach Johnson: Popular in C.R. (Brian Ray photos/SourceMedia Group)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Zach and Kim Johnson made a $500,000 decision Monday morning.

After an auction of experiences and memorabilia brought in about $140,000 at the Zach Johnson Foundation Classic gala Sunday night, it became clear that the Foundation really would net about a half-million dollars in its first year.

Monday afternoon, after the golfing was done at Johnson’s inaugural event at Elmcrest Country Club, he made an announcement about that decision at the awards ceremony. He and Kim, his wife, would match every dollar raised this year, to bump the total to about $1 million.

So the Kids on Course program the Johnsons founded to give Cedar Rapids elementary school children various experiences to bring them closer to their academic potential is off the tee and airborne.

“The community stepped up so much,” Kim Johnson said, “so we needed to step up in a big way, too.

“We want to give a good foundation to the Foundation. So we said ‘This is the first year, let’s do it.’ ”

Between the sponsorships, gate receipts and the proceeds from the auction, the response was all the Johnsons, their board members, and Kids on Course director Dr. Ruth White could have wanted.

“I’m humbled,” Zach Johnson said. “I feel very lucky.

“One, every dollar will go to Kids on Course. Two, I wanted the community to embrace this, to show them it was their tournament and not just mine.”

On a steamy day, a crowd of over 3,000 got an idea of why PGA and LPGA Tour pros are, well, PGA and LPGA Tour pros. The name power of the playing pros was pretty good, with three majors champions for starters in Johnson, Davis Love III and Stewart Cink.

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Outside of the host, perhaps no player was as popular with the gallery as 22-year-old Rickie Fowler, who is trying to make the step from phenom to champion.

There was enough star power on the facility so that a college basketball player of note could travel around the course and not be swamped by attention.

Harrison Barnes, a sophomore-to-be at North Carolina, ventured over from his family home in Ames just to be an observer.

“Zach and I have a mutual friend, and Zach invited me to come out and support him,” Barnes said. “I play golf a little bit. Hopefully, I’ll be good enough to play here in a few years.”

It sounds like the event will be around a few years from now for Barnes.

“We don’t want it to be just a one-year deal,” Johnson said, “and we don’t want it to get stagnant. We want to keep it healthy and keep it fun.”

The format seemed to work fine. The name pros were spread out every few holes, and fans spread out with them. But former University of Iowa athletes like Ryan Bowen, Marv Cook and Tim Dwight had plenty of followers, themselves, and a lot of people seemed to get a kick out seeing ex-Iowa and Drake basketball coach Tom Davis work the ball around the course.

Retired quarterback Kurt Warner, while a ways from being a great golfer, showed again that he is a great autograph-signer and friend to good causes in his hometown.

“I don’t know how we could have made it much better,” said Pat Cobb, the chairman of Johnson’s foundation. “We’ve got nothing to complain about. For the first time around, I’m thrilled.”

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Cobb said he’s taking Tuesday off. On Wednesday? His board will start discussing next year’s Classic.

   

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