116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Zach Johnson's golf career has been about continual improvement. And, in the process, often exceeding expectations.
And so it is off the course. Johnson and his wife, Kim, are trying to evolve their Birdies That Care charitable cause into even more of a golden goose for his hometown.
Monday at Elmcrest Country Club, Johnson made the official announcement of a golf event he hopes will help provide ample financial support for a worthy children's agency.
The Zach Johnson Foundation Classic will be held Aug. 1, 2011 at Elmcrest. Proceeds will go to Children of Promise. That's a one-on-one, community-based program connecting trained adult mentors to children ages 6-17 who have a parent incarcerated or on parole or probation.
“It links kids to adults for extra support,” Johnson said.
“The focus is to build, nurture and cater to struggling families and help children in our community. It won't be for just Cedar Rapids, but that's certainly where it will start.
“We hope to raise $250,000 in the first year alone.”
Children of Promise is the latest designated recipient of the Johnsons' Birdies That Care program. It has raised about $650,000 for five different non-profit Cedar Rapids organizations since its inception six years ago.
But this golf event will try to take things to a larger level.
The plan is for an 18-hole pro-am format, with amateurs paying to participate. Johnson plans to get some of his PGA Tour friends to lend a hand with their presence, as well as what he called “household names of this community.”
Among the pros Johnson said will be possible participants are three of his good friends on the Tour, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover and Davis Love III. Cink and Glover won last year's British Open and U.S. Open, respectively, and Love has been one of the Tour's top players for the last two decades.
The details will be handled by a board of eight people all based in Cedar Rapids, including retired AEGON USA president/CEO Pat Baird. One still to be determined is whether the event will be open to the general public.
“We're working on that,” Johnson said. “We'd certainly like it to be a public event. I think there would be great potential for that. I don't want to have to set any limits on what we can do.”
Johnson's parents live and work in Cedar Rapids, but he hasn't lived here for about a decade. He now resides in Sea Island, Ga. Yet, the winner of seven PGA Tour events including the 2007 Masters, continues to treat his hometown as his home in important ways.
“The formation and implementation of this foundation fulfills a dream of mine,” he said.
“We want to do this for a number of reasons. One, because I love Iowa, I love Cedar Rapids, I love coming home. ... It's still home in so many ways.
“I appreciate and respect the people here. I've left only because I felt my job has taken me out of here.”
AEGON has been a sponsor of Johnson's since before he sank his first putt as a PGA Tour member. Baird said it was “unthinkable” that AEGON/Transamerica wouldn't be the title sponsor for Johnson's event here, and so it will be.
“Cedar Rapids has had a lot of philanthropic needs and a lot of philanthropy is tapped out here,” Baird said. “This is an opportunity to bring in some dollars from outside the community.”
Said Johnson: “The purpose behind all this in my mind and my heart is because of what my wife and I cling to. That is, to whom much is given, much is expected.”