Evan Harmeling launches foundation to support inner-city education
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He'll donate earnings from this week's Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship
Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Two subjects close to Evan Harmeling’s heart: education and opportunity. He speaks passionately and from experience. During a college gap year, he spent four months working at an Achievement First charter school in New Haven, Connecticut. “The teachers in these areas really are saints,” he said.
Harmeling, 35, feels fortunate to play professional golf for a living. There’s stress in fighting to keep your job on the Korn Ferry Tour and advance to the PGA TOUR, to be sure. But it doesn’t compare to life outside the ropes, he believes. “It’s a complete joke,” he said, in comparison.
“We live in a complete bubble and can easily get caught up in it,” said Harmeling, who played PGA TOUR Americas from 2013-19 before earning Korn Ferry Tour status in 2020. “I get caught up in it sometimes. Yes, this is my profession, but I’m in a very privileged position to be playing golf and having this as my work. Our purpose for society here is entertainment. We’re entertaining people, and that’s great. But at the same time, I want to do more than that.”
Harmeling is putting his money where his mouth is. The Princeton alum has launched the Evan and Ariel Harmeling Foundation, alongside wife Ariel, aiming to provide greater educational opportunities for kids who wouldn’t have them otherwise. The first beneficiary will be the K-8 Savannah Legacy Academy – Harmeling has pledged the entirety of his earnings at this week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship to the cause. Click here to learn more and donate.
Harmeling’s connection with the Savannah Legacy Academy and its principal, Dr. Morris Brown, came through a series of converging forces. He played the first two rounds of the 2020 Club Car Championship at The Landings Golf & Athletic Club in Savannah alongside area native Tim O’Neal, who considers Brown a longtime mentor. The grouping had good vibes, and Harmeling proceeded to win the tournament – his first Korn Ferry Tour top-10 finish, no less. “I’m a big believer that who you play with makes a big difference,” Harmeling said. “The energy in that group, and Tim was awesome.”
Evan Harmeling interview after winning of the Savannah Championship
After his breakthrough victory, Harmeling was inspired to give back to the Savannah community, and he reached out to O’Neal for suggestions. “I told him I’m interested in education and after-school programs in tougher areas where it’s really important for kids to have good productive things to do,” Harmeling said, “and he says, ‘I’ve got the guy for you.’”
“My dad was always preaching how important a good education was and how that gave you options in life,” Harmeling said. “Expanding your mind is ultimately a huge component in being happy in life … I’ve seen firsthand, it’s not easy to be a teacher. In these inner cities, being a teacher is a real job, and I put that right up there with being a policeman, firefighter, soldier. That’s real work, you’re educating our youth, and you’re educating in the most difficult situation, and Dr. Brown and his family are doing that.
“There’s a huge amount of brainpower, huge amount of talent that never realizes the full potential for a lot of these kids, to no fault of their own. It’s just the circumstance, the situation.”
In addition to the Savannah Legacy Academy, Harmeling aims to start a program for aspiring junior golfers in the Jacksonville, Florida area, where he now resides. He has played alongside high-potential juniors from the First Tee of North Florida, and he also understands the importance of access – to top-tier instructors, courses and practice facilities – in order for junior golfers to have the best chance to reach the highest level.
“You need coaching, especially from a young age, and you need a place to play,” Harmeling said. “You need to enter tournaments. And so those are the things we want to do for kids that wouldn’t necessarily be able to do that otherwise, but who are showing they have some ability and some aspiration to do it.”
Harmeling’s wife Ariel will also be involved. The Brazil native has worked as a yoga instructor and has an eclectic range of expertise areas. “She has a background generally in wellness; she’s an astrologer, she’s an herbalist. She’ll tell you which crystals to have next to your bed at night for which sorts of energy,” Harmeling said. “She’s definitely going to be involved to the extent these kids want any guidance or advice from her.”
O’Neal was informed Wednesday of the foundation, its mission and his unique connection to its launch. He was touched.
“Morris (Brown) has been a part of my life for a long time, a mentor of mine, and he’s been helping out with inner-city kids, and he’s done a lot,” O’Neal said. “He’s still somebody that I talk to often, and that’s awesome for (Evan) to give back that way. That’s really nice … Even for him to mention my name, that was pretty cool for him to do that … trying to raise money for inner-city kids, for troubled kids, and just to help out with the program, it’s huge. I hope this really grows into something even bigger.”
Evan Harmeling makes a hole in one in at 113 VISA Open de Argentina
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.