Apr. 30—As part of the growth of the Missouri Sports Charity golf tournament, co-chairmen Kevin Rhinehart and Darrell Waggoner went door-to-door and business-to-business looking for hole sponsors.
"When we first started asking for hole sponsors, people would say 'what do you guys do with the money?' " Rhinehart said. "I'd say 'well, this year we're going to buy seeing-eye dogs for referees.' Everybody would laugh and say 'oh boy, you're going to need a lot of money this year. Maybe I should write a bigger check.' "
This year's tournament is Saturday with morning and afternoon fields at the Carthage Golf Course. All proceeds will be given to charities or people in need.
"We've already given out $3,000 to people in need this year, and we haven't had the tournament yet," Rhinehart said. "We have six memorial foundations that we do every year."
Last year the tournament raised a record $30,000, pushing the total to $120,000 since 2011. And that came during COVID-19.
"We got postponed twice," Rhinehart said. "Normally we have it in the first weekend in May. We had it in the middle of August, but everybody was so ready to get out and play golf, we've had the biggest numbers we've ever had — 272 golfers."
That's a far cry from the 22 golfers who played in the first tournament in 2008, which attempted to pair basketball referees with basketball coaches.
"When we started, we weren't a charity golf tournament," Rhinehart explained. "We were referees and coaches, and it never got off the ground. So when the tornado came in 2011, we decided we'd open it up to all golfers who wanted to play. And that's what's made it grow. It's been phenomenal."
This year's field will not be as large, but there are 83 hole sponsors. Rhinehart had no idea it would grow this large.
"Had we thought it would, we would have gathered more recruits to help us along the way," he said. "But we had no idea it would do this. The biggest jump to our movement to increase was when the Carthage Golf Course let us have the morning and afternoon. We were maxed out in the afternoon alone ... we couldn't get any bigger. And then the tournament that played in the morning of our day kept getting smaller, and a lot of their players would stay over and play in our tournament. We we approached the golf course guy and said 'hey, just give us the whole day.' And so they did, and that's when it blossomed.
"Since we went morning and afternoon, we have lunch in between the morning and afternoon, and everybody gets to eat together. Then we started having some of the recipients from our tournament come and speak about what our tournament means to them. That has really been eye-opening. People get teary-eyed and a lump in their throat when they hear those stories."
JIM HENRY is sports editor of the Globe and receives correspondence at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Jim_Henry53.
Follow Sports Editor Jim Henry on Twitter at @Jim_Henry53.