Charity golf tournaments get in the swing with help from Springs expert

June 27, 2013 Updated: June 27, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Searching for ways to raise money, charities often turn to golf tournaments to increase revenue and awareness of their organizations. But establishing a charity golf tournament, especially for the first time, is labor intensive and often costly

This is where John Darling comes into play.

Darling is a former charity golf tournament director turned mentor, and while many profess to have "written the book" about a particular subject, heactually has, said Jessica Woehle membership director at The Country Club of Colorado at Cheyenne Mountain Resort.

Woehle, who recruits tournaments to her club, has referred several charity and other tournament directors to Darling and his $29.95 book: "The Comprehensive Guide to a Successful Fund Raising Golf Tournament," first published in 2008. The country club holds between 30 and 50 in-house and outside tournaments for charities and others each year.

"The first thing everyone who wants to hold a tournament needs to know is John Darling's phone number," Woehle said.

Darling, 77, played in his first charity golf tournament in his mid-60s. He volunteers for PGA, LPGA, and PGA Senior tournaments around the country, and decided to help direct charity events after retiring from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service in 2000. He has played in, run, advised and supported hundreds of charity golf tournaments ever since.

For $500, Darling will spend a day with an organization's leaders, teaching them the important points of tournament economics. Sometimes, depending on the charity, he works for free.

His biggest lesson: Clients must feel they are getting their money's worth, even if the money is going to charity.

"It's all about how to negotiate with golf courses and sponsors," said Darling, whose book is available on

Tournament officials want to raise as much money as possible from sponsors to increase charitable donations, but need to try to lower a golfer's cost, he said. If the economics of playing a course are out of skew, golfers won't enter the tournament.

"People who play in these tournaments are not doing it because they are necessarily committed to the charity," he said. "They are doing it because they want to have fun and feel like they are getting something for their money."

Darling also warned tournament directors for Axios Youth Community that the income levels of golfers must fit corporate and private sponsors, or sponsors will say no.

"So if the economic resources of those playing in the tournament are blue collar, go to Toyota, or one of the more economic car dealerships, not Bentley," said Nathan Schnackenberg, a board member for Axios, which works with disadvantaged kids and young parolees in Pueblo. Axios is holding its first charity golf tournament in August.

Darling also warns charities and other tournament officials that the time commitment to host a tournament is one of the greatest concerns. He said an organization should allow at least nine months to plan a tournament and have no fewer than nine people to run it, recruit sponsors and find participants.

"I worked with the United Way for years, and in the fifth year they made $50,000," Darling said. "Then they stopped doing it, because it was too much work for the three or four people doing it."


Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

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