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CEDAR RAPIDS — The dollars are great. The crowd was even better.
Zach Johnson has a different view of success for his annual charity golf event that raises funds for Kids on Course program, in cooperation with the Cedar Rapids Community School District.
“My barometer is knowing that the program, the kids, the schools (and) the administration we have have resources,” the Masters and British Open champion and Cedar Rapids Regis alumnus said. “Have the ability to spend time with kids and help them flourish in and out of the classroom.”
Johnson witnessed hordes of spectators and a record in financial support for his sixth Zach Johnson Foundation Charity Golf Classic on Monday at Elmcrest Country Club.
“Awesome day,” Johnson told a large crowd after he concluded his round at the 18th green. “All senses of it. Last night was terrific and this caps it.
“This is your tournament and you came out in full force.”
Attendance was at an all-time high, according to foundation representatives. Tickets were free, but they tracked the number of tickets that were distributed to and by local Hy-Vee stores.
The gala held on the eve of the tournament raised $305,000, shattering last year’s high of $216,000. The tournament raised about $950,000, according to ZJF Chairman Pat Cobb.
“It’s getting bigger and better,” Johnson said. It’s special. I never anticipated it getting to this magnitude.”
Melinda Huisinga was one of the many spectators who lined the 18th fairway to get glimpses of celebrities. She traveled from her home in Mount Pleasant to add some photos to a mounted poster of Johnson after his Masters championship. Also on hand was 2015 FedEx Cup, Masters and U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth, who is ranked fourth on the PGA Tour money list this season.
“I think they are both class acts,” Huisinga said. “I’m proud of Zach.”
Huisinga was attending for the first time and was joined by golfing partner Sue King. She said she may come again.
“I enjoyed the atmosphere,” Huisinga said. “Everyone is friendly. It’s neat to see the golfers up close.”
The attraction isn’t just the golfers. Fans also have flocked to the course to see former University of Iowa athletes and television celebrities.
Brian Haefner came to the event with his wife, Renae. They enjoyed the antics of former PGA golfer and current member of the Champions Tour John Daly. The Heafners were pleasantly surprised to see Al and Willie Robertson in the field, too. They are part of the family depicted on the TV series “Duck Dynasty.”
“We’ve been able to see everyone,” said Brian Heafner, attending for the sixth time. “It’s pretty accessible.
“We didn’t expect that.”
Johnson said he couldn‘t imagine how the event could become better, but that doesn’t mean he won’t try in future years. They approached the million-dollar threshold and may not be far off if they can draw the same field on another gorgeous summer day.
“We’ve got great support,” Johnson said. “Not just these two days but all together. We’ll polish it.
“I don’t know what that will be,” he said. “We’ll take some things out and add some things along the way.”