ARTICLE

Cink pitches in for Zach Johnson Foundation Classic

Charity is a welcome responsibility for many pro golfers

CEDAR RAPIDS — Good people tend to attract other good people.

It is only natural for Stewart Cink to consider Zach Johnson as one of his best friends, as they form a partnership supporting even better causes.

For the second straight year, Cink made the trip to Elmcrest Country Club for the Zach Johnson Foundation Classic, putting another famous professional golf face to the fundraising effort that attracted thousands of fans Monday.

The money raised by the second annual event supports “Kids on Course,” a program benefiting Harrison and Van Buren Elementary schools. The organization helps provide enrichment opportunities for students and families to promote positive, resilient communities through collaboration with Cedar Rapids School District and the United Way of East Central Iowa.

The quality of the event reflects the personality of its namesake, according to Cink.

“It’s a great cause and he’s a great friend,” Cink said. “I also met a lot of really nice people last year, so it was very pleasant. I wouldn’t have considered not playing.”

The cause is an important one to the 2009 British Open Champion, who ranks 11th in career PGA earnings with more than $30 million. The sport he loves is a perfect way to help those in need.

“Kids are the most common because it’s just heartbreaking when kids are in need...,” said Cink, who like others spent time between holes signing autographs and taking photos with fans. “Golf can provide funding and proceeds from this tournament and my tournaments all go to children in need.”

Cink devotes his time to five charity tournaments during the year. Three he has a direct impact on, and two more he indirectly supports. He relies on Johnson to participate in his events and Cink has accommodated Johnson with two appearances at Elmcrest. He was one of seven pro golfers, including Ben Crane, Johnson Wagner, Bo Van Pelt, Kyle Stanley, Scott Stallings and Taylor Coutu.

Johnson said Cink and others understand the responsibility to give back and jumped at the chance to participate.

“They’re good friends. They get it,” Johnson told a crowd after he completed his round on the 18th green. “You all embraced them and love having them here.

“It’s not going to be hard to get more next year.”

Cink made an impression with the players in his group. His personable and grounded demeanor made his partners at ease shooting with a six-time PGA tournament winner.

“It’s almost like you didn’t have to do anything,” said Ed Walker, a Transamerica employee who is from Baltimore. “He’s just a normal guy and able to interact with people from all walks of life. It says a lot about him and who he is as a person.”

Cink and Johnson understand golf has afforded them the chance to be in a position to assist others. Cink said he is fortunate to have benefitted from his passion for golf, and that all golfers should remind themselves to help others through the game.

“We don’t do it because it’s work,” Cink said. “We do it because we’re able to do it.”

Johnson’s personality is a catalyst for the success of his foundation’s tournament. He is able to assemble a wide array of celebrities, including actors as well as sports standouts from within the state like University of Northern Iowa basketball coach Ben Jacobson, former Major League Baseball player and manager Bruce Kimm and former University of Iowa basketball player Matt Gatens.

“It feels awesome,” Johnson said about support garnered by his character. “I’ve said it over and over ... It’s not hard to get those guys to come here.”

Entertainer Alfonso Ribeiro, who reached star status as Carlton Banks on the television sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” met Johnson less than a year ago and was one of the first to commit to play. He made the crowd laugh around the course, and that was after flying in late last night from a charity event in the New England area.

“This is a wonderful charity and event,” Ribeiro said. “It’s a blast. Everyone has been awesome.”

Wagner, a 10-year pro, said it was an honor to be included to support the cause.

“I think the world of Zach Johnson,” Wagner said. “He’s just a good friend and a great human being.”

As for 2013, Cink expects to return as long as no conflicts exist. He joked that if Johnson keeps participating in his events he will be back in Cedar Rapids, helping his good friend give back.

“We’ll have to figure out the dates,” Cink said. “I don’t see any reason why not.” 

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