A Giving Side

Members Reach Out with Scholarships and Opportunity

By Jay Gonzales

Steve Pearl didn’t have to be president of the board of Tucson Country Club to know there’s at least one thing the membership has in common. 

“If you’re a member of Tucson Country Club, you have been successful and fortunate,” said Pearl, the immediate past president at the club. “And if you have been rewarded in life − if you’re successful and fortunate − you owe something back.”

It’s a premise backed by action by the membership at Tucson Country Club as the club celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Pearl, a member of Tucson Country Club since moving from Chicago a dozen years ago, said he sought out a club that has most of what everyone wants in a club – great golf, great amenities, great camaraderie and great people.

What he found at Tucson Country Club was one more characteristic that was important to him – giving.

“I want to be around people that think the way I do,” he said, noting not politically speaking. “I want to be around people that want to give back.”

Ryan Davis, the general manager at the club couldn’t agree more. It’s an aspect of the club that he is making sure is part of a vision for the future.

“I think…people are really seeing our philanthropic side and the interest by the club in giving back,” Davis said, alluding to a partnership with San Miguel High School to provide work-study and scholarship opportunities. A partnership with the University of Arizona men’s and women’s golf teams is another example of community outreach.

Members can also contribute to a Patriot Legacy Fund which provides education assistance through Folds of Honor Arizona to families of military members who have been disabled or killed. Families of first responders were recently added to be eligible for the education funding. Once a year, the club invites service members to a breakfast and golf tournament at the club, held in late November.

The work/study program with San Miguel is in its early stages as part of the Western Golf Association’s Evans Scholarship program which has been around for decades.

Working with The First Tee – Tucson and the WGA, Tucson Country Club established a youth caddie program as an opportunity for caddies to earn an Evans Scholarship. The scholarship covers housing and tuition for the recipient at one of 21 universities that are part of the program. Scholarships are awarded to caddies with outstanding character, a strong caddie record, excellent academics and limited financial means, Pearl said.

He administers the program for Tucson Country Club as a member of the WGA. Since the program began at the club two years ago, it hasn’t had its first Evans Scholar because caddies must accumulate a certain number of “loops,” another word for serving as a caddie for a round of golf.

But despite those rules, club members have seized this opportunity to help and mentor the kids. And for these young people to get quality time with successful entrepreneurs can be priceless for them.

Pearl said a group of six members contributed $125,000 to fund a scholarship on their own. And other members are finding ways to give through mentorship, or even business connections.

Pearl said he asked one of his caddies during a round what she wanted to do as a career. She was very specific, Pearl said, in saying that she wanted to be an FBI agent specializing in counterterrorism.

“I’m thinking, ‘Wow, for a 17 year old that’s really specific,’ ” Pearl recalled. After a discussion with the caddie’s parents and a few phone calls, the caddie was put in touch with the right people and ended up with an FBI internship.

“We lost a caddy, and I don’t know how good that was, but we were able to help a young person with her goals.”

In the end, that is the essence of the caddie program, said Club President Chet Nowak. 

“It’s two-way mentoring,” Nowak said. “I enjoy talking with them during the 3½ hours we play golf. I’m learning from them as much as they’re asking questions about what I did in my career.”

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