Immokalee Foundation making dreams a reality for golfers and impoverished kids at same time

It’s an amateur golfer’s dream: hitting the course with some of the world’s greatest golfers on one of the most beautiful golf courses in Southwest Florida.

For 96 of Naples’ most philanthropic golfers, that dream will be realized Monday, Nov. 14, at the Immokalee Foundation’s 2011 Charity Classic Pro-Am golf tournament at Bay Colony Golf Club in Naples, as they are paired with golf professionals from the LPGA, PGA Tour and Champions Tour.

However, this tournament isn’t just about making golfers’ dreams come true, it’s about making a difference in the community.

According to the pro-am’s chair, Kevin Johnson of the Johnson Meland Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, “The tournament is about changing the lives of students involved in the Immokalee Foundation and its programs. Through our fundraising efforts, we provide these kids with an opportunity to see a world outside of Immokalee and realize they can dream a lot bigger.”

The popular fundraiser pairs benefactors with some of the biggest names in golf thanks to PGA Tour professional and Golf Channel analyst Mark Lye. An avid supporter of the Immokalee Foundation (TIF), Lye has consistently recruited professionals from the LPGA, PGA Tour and Champions Tour for the tournament each year. Thus far, the lineup includes golfing greats Peter Jacobsen, Bruce Fleisher, George McNeill, Derek Lamely, Michael Bradley, Brad Bryant and Andy Bean, to name a few.

As much as Lye enjoys the game of golf, he realizes this particular tournament is about ensuring a brighter future and enhancing the lives of Immokalee’s children.

“The Charity Classic Pro-Am is an incredible golf event that’s about so much more than golf,” said Lye. “When a child from Immokalee walks up, looks you in the eye and says thank you, you’ll know what I mean.”

The exclusive event is slated to include two dozen foursomes, plus pros. The fun-filled day kicks off at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast and golf demonstrations, followed by a shotgun start at 9:30 a.m. The scramble format pairs players with a different pro for each nine holes. An awards luncheon will be held immediately following the tournament. It’s an exciting day that keeps golfers like 2010 participant Rich Yovanovich coming back.

“I got to play with one of the best in the game on one of the most beautiful courses in Florida,” Yovanovich said. “Best of all, I got to help make dreams come true for these great kids. I’ll be back every year.”

Entry fees begin at $5,000 and include tickets to the 2011 Charity Classic Celebration dinner and auction Friday, Nov. 11, at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples.

“This year, we are aiming higher and with the community’s help, we know we can make an even bigger impact,” said Johnson.

Both the tournament and event benefit the foundation’s educational programs including Take Stock in Children Immokalee program, College Success, Immokalee Readers and Vocational & Career Success. The 2010 golf tournament raised more than $500,000 for TIF programs.

The Immokalee Foundation has a range of programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and vocational school, mentoring and tutoring, and opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development. To learn more about the Charity Classic Celebration, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call (239) 430-9122 or visit

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Jennifer Whitis is director of development of the Immokalee Foundation and can be reached at

© 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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