TOUR players rally to Australian bushfire relief cause
January 07, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- More than 17.9 million acres have been burned across Australia's six states. (Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)
HONOLULU – Australian PGA TOUR players Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith have kickstarted a campaign to help with the extensive bushfire crisis that has overrun their home country and have called upon their fellow TOUR pros from all nations to join the cause.
Leishman and Smith have vowed to donate funds for every birdie and eagle they make at this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii and have already received significant support from fellow Australian players in the field in Matt Jones, Cameron Davis, Cameron Percy and Rhein Gibson.
In a huge boost to the cause, the Presidents Cup – which was recently held in Melbourne Australia – and the PGA TOUR have committed to match any figures raised by any player in the Sony Open field up to $125,000. Smith and Leishman were both members of the International team in the competition.
“It is heartwarming and comes as no surprise to see our players lend their support for the current crisis here in Australia,” said Presidents Cup Executive Director Matt Kamienski.
“Having worked and lived in Australia for the past two editions of the Presidents Cup in 2011 and 2019, it is difficult to witness what this community has endured over the last several weeks. Our thoughts are with those who have experienced a loss during this time and we thank those who continually raise their hand to fight these bushfires.
“The Presidents Cup and the PGA TOUR have been welcomed with open arms in all of our visits to Australia and we hope our involvement will positively impact the community that gave so much to the event.”
To date, more than 7.3 million hectares (17.9 million acres or over 28,000 square miles) have been burned across Australia's six states – an area larger than the American state of West Virginia. The burn area is also larger than the countries of Belgium and Denmark combined.
For comparison, the 2019 Amazon rainforest fires burned more than 7 million hectares while California’s wildfires combined to burn just over 100,000 hectares in 2019 and 404,000 hectares in 2018.
Multiple fires are still raging. There have been 24 lives lost and destruction of homes is in the thousands. The wildlife of the country has also taken a cataclysmic hit also with estimates of half a billion animals being affected.
“The devastation caused in this unprecedented national crisis in Australia is just terrible,” Leishman said.
“There have been lives lost and around 2,000 families have lost homes, not to mention the catastrophic damage to the unique wildlife in the country. The communities across the nation have shown tremendous spirit in the face of such adversity and it is the least we can do to try to help out.”
Leishman has vowed to donate $500 a birdie and $1,000 an eagle this week. Supporters of his have added to this taking it up over $800 a birdie and $2,000 an eagle. Leishman’s Begin Again Foundation has also vowed to match general donations up to $5,000.
“I am calling on my fellow TOUR pros to join the cause and create enough support so we can maximize the donations from the Presidents Cup and TOUR itself as well,” Leishman said.
“This is a global crisis and a cause close to my heart.”
Smith was quick to jump on board, rallying to his nations cause. He will also pledge $500 a birdie and $1,000 an eagle this week. His uncle from Tumbarumba, a town not far from the nation’s capital in Canberra, lost his house, tractors, horses and most of his farm. Smith had him flee to his Florida home.
“People all over Australia are doing it tough at the moment and if we can help in some small way hopefully that keeps some of the morale a little higher,” Smith said.
“Aussies are resilient people and the scenes of how everyone has come together in awful circumstances shows why I am so proud to be Australian. But this goes beyond a nation’s borders. This is a crisis that could use widespread global support. I am sure our PGA TOUR community will rally around this.”
Jones, the recent Australian Open champion, who claimed his title in Sydney amongst dense smoke from the fires has pledged $250 a birdie and $500 an eagle while Davis, Gibson and Percy will also provide meaningful figures in the coming days.
There are several ways people can support the cause including through Leishman’s Foundation at http://beginagainfoundation.com/donate/.
Other ways include:
The NSW Rural Fire Service https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/about-us/fundraising
The Victorian Country Fire Authority https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/about/supporting-cfa#donate-cfa
The Queensland Fire and Rescue team http://www.givit.org.au/disasters
South Australian Country Fire Service https://cfsfoundation.org.au/donate
Wildlife donations can be directed here https://www.wires.org.au/donate/emergency-fund