Golf is the game that gives back more than any other sport and in amounts matched by few activities. Each year more than 12 million people play in tens of thousands of outings that raise billions of dollars for charity. One of the longest-running of those fundraising events is Val Skinner’s LPGA Pros In the Fight to Eradicate Breast Cancer – LIFE.
On Monday, following the ShopRite Classic near Atlantic City, 18 LPGA players traveled two hours up the Garden State Parkway to join Skinner at Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, N.J., for the 20th edition of an event whose creation was motivated by the loss of a friend and, since its inception in 2000, has raised more than $13 million for strangers.
On this day, $500,000 was generated for a wide range of projects benefiting breast cancer awareness, treatment and research. The degree to which golf is used to do good is staggering.
In 2016, the most recent year for which figures are available, more than 12 million people played in 143,000 outings that raised $3.9 billion for national, regional and local charities, according to the Golf Industry Report of the National Golf Foundation.
In Skinner’s case, a local event made her want to have a national impact. Out of sadness and the harsh wake-up call to the reality that cancer can hit anywhere at any time, she created a project that gives back – and LPGA players have responded.
“When my friend and fellow professional golfer, Heather Farr, was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was a shock to her family, friends and the world of professional golf,” says Skinner, a six-time LPGA winner. “Women are not supposed to get breast cancer at 24, and they are not supposed to die at 28.”
Farr’s public battle was a turning point in awareness of the impact breast cancer has on young women. She was first diagnosed in 1989 and, after the cancer spread to her spine, had a 13-hour operation. Her attempts to return to play and her willingness to talk about her ordeal made Farr a public face of the disease.
“Heather’s death inspired me to create the Val Skinner Foundation to provide a stronger message to caution young women about the disease,” Skinner says. “I’m tremendously proud of what has been accomplished with friends of the Val Skinner Foundation and our benefactors.”
“We’ve raised millions for scientific research, launched early-detection programs, supported comprehensive education programs and provided clinical support for those affected by breast cancer.” – Val Skinner
The 18 pros on hand for the fundraiser this year were Dame Laura Davies, Brittany Lang, Marina Alex, Tiffany Joh, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Jacqui Concolino, Caroline Masson, Sandra Gal, Christina Kim, Mel Reid, Emma Talley, Cheyenne Knight, Lindsey Weaver, Anna Nordqvist, Giulia Molinaro, Carlota Ciganda, Alison Lee and Bronte Law.
“It’s supporting a good cause,” said Ciganda, who learned about Heather Farr from her coaches at Arizona State University, where Farr also played college golf and Heather’s sister, Missy Farr-Kaye, was first an assistant coach and then head coach. “I think you should support a few of these a year if you can.”
Skinner’s outing helps make younger players aware of the tour’s history, in this case the story of the struggle Farr endured.
“We’ve raised millions for scientific research, launched early-detection programs, supported comprehensive education programs and provided clinical support for those affected by breast cancer,” Skinner says.
For her charitable work, Skinner has received numerous awards, including the LPGA Humanitarian Award, the Golf Writers Association of America’s Charlie Bartlett Award for unselfish commitment to community service and the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association’s Winnie Palmer Award for consistently helping others.
“Cancer has gone through my family, unfortunately,” said Law. “I lost my grandmother to cancer. I think it’s important to be more than a golfer. Cancer is one of the biggest killers out there. It’s an honor to participate, actually.”
What started as a way to honor the memory of Heather Farr has become much more. The Val Skinner LIFE event preserves her story and passes it along to those too young to have known Farr as well as raising money for worthwhile projects.
“I think of Heather every day and know she is cheering us on to stay the course for all of those still struggling to survive,” Skinner says. “We can’t forget what happened to her and her memory is why we continue the fight.”
While this 20th anniversary LIFE event is a celebration of what has been done in the fight against breast cancer, it is also a call to do much more. What Skinner wants is to fight just as hard against the disease that took Heather Farr’s life as Heather did. Each year, she’s joined by LPGA pros in that fight.
To learn more about the LIFE or to contribute visit valskinnerfoundation.org.
Top photo: Val Skinner in the 2002 Ping Banner Health tournament in Phoenix. Getty Images file
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