TOUR players beef up Australian bushfire relief
January 13, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Marc Leishman's interview after Round 3 of the Sony Open
HONOLULU – Maybe it was some sort of cosmic karma that helped Cameron Smith win the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Australian PGA TOUR players in the Sony Open field – with help from some friends – added over $175,000 to help boost bushfire relief efforts in their home country, taking the current total from the TOUR community to well over a $250,000.
The six Australians in the field in Marc Leishman, Smith, Matt Jones, Rhein Gibson, Cameron Davis and Cameron Percy, plus American Parker McLachlin, all pledged funds per birdie and eagle made during the tournament to the ongoing fire crisis down under.
Together, they raised over $30,000, despite difficult conditions with high winds and rain throughout the week at Waialae Country Club. And the figure will continue to rise as further matches are added.
Karma seemed part of the narrative as Smith came from behind to force a playoff with a birdie on the 72nd hole and earlier, Leishman holed out for an eagle on Sunday from 130 yards to boost the cause.
Leishman’s Begin Again Foundation has over $9,000 of straight donations to add plus their pledge to match $5,000 of those contributions. Personal sponsors and friends of the four-time TOUR winner also added to his birdie/eagle pledge, which takes things up at least another $6,000.
The Presidents Cup, which was recently held in Melbourne, Australia, and the PGA TOUR pledged to match any figures raised up to $125,000 by players at Waialae. Smith and Leishman were both members of the International Team in the competition.
In another significant show of support the Presidents Cup, confirmed at the conclusion of play that they will provide the full $125,000 regardless of the final totals. On Saturday, the International team also pledged to send $125,000 from their Presidents Cup charitable funds towards the relief efforts.
“It’s amazing that, as always, the TOUR steps up. When things are bad, we always say the TOUR is like a big family and it really is,” Leishman said.
“It’s good that we are helping out my fellow Australians who really need it. These bushfires are an ongoing crisis that continues to cut a devastating path right across Australia so support from the global community is crucial. It has been heartening to see the resiliency of the Australian people and to see the firefighters and volunteers from around the world coming together to continue this important fight.
“But the scale of the destruction is huge and it will continue to take a team effort from every corner of the globe as we look to the future. The fires are expected to burn through the Australian summer and coming months and the families who lost loved ones, homes and priceless memories will feel the effects for years to come. So too will our unique wildlife so all support is greatly appreciated.”
To date, more than 10 million hectares (over 38,610 square miles) have been burned across Australia's six states – an area about the size of Leishman’s adopted American state of Virginia.
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 causing problems. There have been at least 27 lives lost and destruction of homes is in the thousands. The unique wildlife of the country has also taken a cataclysmic hit, with estimates of more than a billion animals being affected. There are fears some smaller species could face extinction or functional extinction – where the species declines to a point where they no longer play a significant role in their ecosystem.
Smith’s win was extra special, given his uncle Warren has lost his house and farm in the fires. He hoped it helped add some smiles to otherwise devastating times.
“Every birdie putt I had, just meant that little bit more. Rather than kind of wanting to make it I almost felt like I had to make it,” Smith would say after his victory.
“I realize Australia is doing it tough right now and the focus in probably not on my golf for good reason. But hopefully it gave a few people reason to smile for a moment of two.
“Uncle Warren drove back to his place the other day and what he found was quite devastating. I kind of saw the photos and the only thing he had left was a little shed that him and his son built a few months back.
“We're a tight knit family and it kind of hit everyone pretty hard. It's good to do something good, and hopefully puts a smile on their face.”