Feb 23, 2011 4:19 PM
MARANA - The Accenture Match Play Championships bring big money into Southern Arizona. Actual numbers are hard to find but estimates begin at 50 million dollars for the week long tournament. And The Tucson Conquistadores play a big role in hosting this world class event and the tournament is also the number one fundraiser for the Conquistadores.
This charitable group raises more than one million dollars a year for local youth sports programs.
One program that relies heavily on that money is the First Tee of Tucson. About 3,500 kids who may never have had the opportunity to tee it up without that program are learning the game and life lessons. The First Tee teaches nine core values like honesty, respect, and integrity. Values that come in handy in the game of golf and are essential to the game of life.
But the future of the First Tee program is in jeopardy because Marana is in the final year of a four year contract to host the Accenture Match Play Championships, and if the PGA pulls out of Southern Arizona the Conquistadores donations to the First Tee could up.
"If not for the Tucson Conquistadores and the Accenture Match Play, which gives us a very big boost, we would certainly have a different outlook on life. We couldn't do the things we do," said David Noble, Director of Golf for the First Tee of Tucson.
John Miller is the Tournament Chairman for the Conquistadores, he says this tournament is their primary source of funding and it would hurt his organization and the entire area if the tournament were to leave Southern Arizona.
"I think this is the year we need to show that this community is going to support this event, or we know they do, or they have in the past," Miller says. "But we really need to show it big time this year because the tour and Accenture don't have to come back."
Miller says he is optimistic the PGA will keep the tournament in Marana but we won't know for sure until after the tournament ends this weekend.