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Local nonprofit hits the $50 million mark

Mark Parker

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With the proceeds from the 2023 Valspar Championship (pictured) in March, local PGA Tour organizer Copperhead Charities has now raised over $50 million for local nonprofits. Photos provided.

Unlike other professional sports, charitable organizations own and operate every PGA Tour tournament and provide a substantial funding source for local nonprofits.

Officials with Pinellas County’s Copperhead Charities recently announced that they reached a significant milestone this year with the Professional Golfers Association. Copperhead Charities oversees the Valspar Championship at Palm Harbor’s Innisbrook Resort and has now generated over $50 million for Tampa Bay nonprofits.

The week-long Tour event in March added nearly $1.2 million to the total, and Copperhead Charities distributed the money to more than 60 area organizations. In addition, a tournament food drive collected over 5,000 pounds of food items for Feeding Tampa Bay.

Tournament Director Tracy West noted that the $50 million in charitable donations is $10 million more than the combined total prize money won by the top 25 golfers in the event’s history.

“Our mission is to put on the best PGA Tour golf event that we can and generate as much economic and charitable impact into the community,” West said. “We couldn’t do it on our own without the Copperheads and the 2,000 volunteers. Holy smokes, it wouldn’t happen. The PGA Tour wouldn’t happen; the Valspar Championship wouldn’t happen. So, just our deep gratitude to the volunteers that support what we’re doing.”

Copperhead Charities has operated PGA Tour-sponsored events in the area since 1977. However, the first tournament came in the fall of 2000, before moving to the spring in 2007.

West explained that a membership organization comprised of over 200 business and civic leaders – the Copperheads – pay dues and essentially serve as ambassadors. She said they engage with potential donors, and Board Chairperson Ronde Barber leads those efforts.

Barber is a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer who helped lead the team to its first Super Bowl victory in 2003. The record-setting defender was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this year.

West noted he is “beloved” in the Tampa Bay community and decided to stay in the area and give back after he retired from football.

Barber also loves golf, she added.

“It means the world to us,” West said. “He can open any door. He truly is involved and heavily invested. He drives additional value, no question.”

Mike Sutton (fourth from left), CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties, with former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Hall of Famer Ronde Barber (fifth from left), Valspar Championship Tournament Director Tracy West (far right) and other members of the Copperhead Charities at a June 20 celebration.

She said that Copperhead Charities, a federal 501c-3 organization, only exists to operate the tournament. The $50 million it has raised is strictly from those events, and the nonprofit does not conduct other fundraising activities.

The money stems from corporate sponsorships, which include pro-am events where clients can play with PGA professionals. West called that “extremely unique” to golf.

The most significant funding source comes from naming rights for the title sponsor. Valspar is a brand owned by paint conglomerate Sherwin Williams.

Ticket, parking, merchandise and concession revenues also contribute to the funding. West said the tournament typically draws over 120,000 people.

While she said Copperhead Charities raises “a heck of a lot of money,” she noted it also has “a bunch of expenses.” Chief among those is player purses, which totaled $8.1 million this year.

Taylor Moore took home $1.46 million in March.

“And then, obviously, build our arena,” West explained. “We don’t have an Amelie Arena or Raymond James Stadium just sitting there for us. We have all the costs of building our arena for seven days, and then what’s leftover, we donate to charity.”

The organization has “pillar charities” that receive the most annual funding. First on that list is Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco Counties.

West called CEO Mike Sutton a “rock star” in the community and said Habitat’s success lets Copperhead officials know their money is making a difference. First Tee, a program that teaches golf and life lessons to children, and Tampa General Hospital are other pillar charities.

The food drive was a new aspect in 2023. Copperhead Charities and insurer AmeriLife’s leadership decided to provide more than a financial gift to Feeding Tampa Bay this year and collected about 2,800 pounds of food.

West said the event caterer and concessionaire contributed nearly 2,200 pounds.

“We were happy with it; AmeriLife thought it was pretty neat,” she added. “Feeding Tampa Bay thought it was awesome, so we’re going to do it again next year.”

In addition to its charitable efforts, West noted the Tour also provides a significant economic impact to the surrounding area through tourism and global recognition. She said 220 countries receive the broadcast, and West ensures that local beaches and amenities feature prominently during breaks.

She takes pride in helping the tournament become a “can’t-miss” event in the area. That success has enabled the Copperheads to provide over $50 million to local charities.

West said many people assume that her organization’s favorite day of the year is in March, after crowning a tournament champion. However, she said it’s the annual charitable celebration in June when they announce the fundraising results and present nonprofit leaders with their checks.

“People get emotional, and that’s when you know, ‘OK, we made an impact,'” West said. “Because there are not-so-fun days putting on this tournament, but you try and remember that you’re impacting people’s lives.”

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1 Comment

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    John Donovan

    July 5, 2023at3:21 pm

    I was there, following the son of a friend who is on PGA Tour. It was a fun time.

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