Puerto Rico Charity Pro-Am raises more than $500,000

20 professional golfers came together to help raise more than $500,000 for relief efforts at the Puerto Rico Open Charity Pro-Am. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

DORADO, Puerto Rico – Although D.A. Points doesn’t technically get to defend his title this week in Puerto Rico, he may be the one who was credited for the idea of the Puerto Rico Open Charity Pro-Am.

Points, who won the 2017 Puerto Rico Open by two shots, didn’t even wait until the call came out from the TOUR for support after last year’s hurricane. He volunteered to come down to the island as soon as there were questions about whether or not an event would take place this year.

“I said to the guys at the PGA TOUR, ‘hey, let me know. If you guys want me to go down there for a fundraiser or a Pro-Am, just let me know,’” he said. “I wanted to help out.”

Points was part of a contingent of 20 professional golfers from the PGA TOUR, Tour, and LPGA Tour who came together to help raise more than $500,000 for relief efforts this week.

He said the resiliency of the Puerto Rican people is part of who they are. Even though last year’s Hurricane Maria was the worst recorded natural disaster in the island’s history, he said he’s seen them roll with the punches and was pleasantly surprised at how – of what he’s seen so far – the island is still “beautiful Puerto Rico.”

Points’ story as well could be one of resiliency, as he said he came into last year’s Puerto Rico Open after a few down years and was trying to dig his game out of one of the deepest pits he’d ever been in.

He birdied his first five holes Sunday but then got ahead of himself and fell back slightly, before birding four of his final six holes to eventually win by two over Retief Goosen, Bryson DeChambeau and Bill Lunde.

He said he cared little about defending his title this week. He was happy to be part of the experience for the people here.

“I’m sad the tournament isn’t going on this year, but I still have this opportunity to be down in Puerto Rico and play another great golf course,” he said.

The biggest reason why it was important to be here this week, he said, was because people care about Puerto Rico – and the people who live here.

When the TOUR reached out to some other past champions, it was an easy thing to say yes to.

Derek Lamely, who won this event in 2010, said the big reason why he’s here is because of how much Puerto Rico feels like his home in Florida.

“As stupid as it is to say, it even smells like home,” he said. “I’ve always liked it here.”

Another Floridian and past Puerto Rico Open champion, George McNeill (2012), said without question he was going to participate this week and help out as much as he can.

It was an opportunity to help show people Puerto Rico was open for business again, and because he saw how much impact a hurricane can have on a community – with Fort Myers, Florida getting hit by Hurricane Irma last year – he was happy to participate.

“When the TOUR was figuring out what to do and they come up with this, it was a very easy yes. I’m happy to be down here and happy to play. The response and what people are doing is over and beyond what they expected, which is always great to see,” said McNeill, whose pro-am team (he split pro duties with Cheyenne Woods of the LPGA Tour, Tiger Woods’ niece) fired a 16-under-par 56 to win the event by one shot.

“People are so excited about having us down here.”

The PGA TOUR and its tournaments raised over $180 million for charitable causes in 2017, a record amount.

McNeill said this week’s event – with the ultimate goal of raising $500,000 for local charities that have been part of the relief effort – is a microcosm of the TOUR’s charitable efforts as a whole.

“That’s what the TOUR is all about,” he said.

“It’s one of the things I’ve always loved the most,” continued Lamely. “You look at all these sports – the NFL and Major League Baseball – and we crush them all (in charitable giving). It’s definitely a great thing to be a part of.”

And although Points will have to wait another year before he can try to become the second person to win the event twice in his career, an event like this week’s pro-am was a chance to be of something even bigger than a golf tournament.

“This was our chance to say, ‘hey, we know you went through a really tough time, so if there is any way to help out, we will,’” he said. “People are still with Puerto Rico and we were ready to help bring people back here.”