FOG to Receive GCAA Lifetime Achievement Award
NORMAN, Okla. Friends of Golf, more commonly known as FOG, has been named recipient of the GCAA Lifetime Achievement Award. FOG, which will become the fifth Lifetime Achievement honoree by the GCAA, will receive the award at the GCAA Hall of Fame Banquet Dec. 6 at the Tropicana Las Vegas. Other GCAA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients include Karsten Solheim, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
"We are humbly honored for FOG to be chosen as the first organization to receive this prestigious award," said FOG President Sal Cimbolo.
In 1979, a group of 25 UCLA supporters met for lunch at the Los Angeles Country Club, a meeting that led ultimately to the creation of an organization dedicated to supporting programs for young golfers. It was initially labeled Friends of College Golf. Its original purpose was to raise funds to provide scholarships for the UCLA Golf Team, whose coach was Eddie Merrins, the Golf Professional at Bel-Air Country Club.
In taking on the additional duties as the UCLA coach, Merrins inherited a paltry budget of just $6,000, which was grossly inadequate in order to compete in big time college golf competition. UCLA graduate and LACC member John Anderson, in response to Merrins' financial plight, hosted the founding luncheon and the idea of staging an annual golf tournament to raise funds for golf team scholarships was adopted.
Golf scholarships were funded by FOCG at UCLA and in 1984, the first scholarship was named for Eddie Merrins, the Bel-Air Country Club's Lil' Pro. Friends of College Golf then started naming a legend of golf as its Honoree, beginning in 1985. This established a precedent that has significantly increased both player and sponsor participation. Lee Trevino was the first in a parade of all-time great pro golfers, followed by Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Greg Norman, and this extraordinary high level was maintained thereafter. Thanks to these funded scholarships, UCLA became a major factor in college golf, winning the NCAA Championship in 1988.
In 1986, Friends of College Golf had reached a financial level where it could expand its scope of contributions to include another major segment of junior golf - high schools. Donations were made initially to the Southern Section of the California Interscholastic Federation, which distributed the funds to more than 50 high schools in the Southern California area. The schools receiving contributions were asked to provide matching funds and these contributions usually made the difference between the high school having or not having a golf program. As a result of this expanded scope of donations, the organizationï¿½??s name was changed to Friends of Golf - now commonly know by its acronym FOG. In 1990, the Los Angeles City Section high schools were added to the CIF recipients enabling many more of such golf programs to exist.
In 1987, thanks to a significant rise in net proceeds from the annual FOG Tournament, the contribution program was expanded to include a number of colleges and universities across the nation.
The latest expansion of FOG's annual contributions program focused on organizations that assist young golfers. The first of these was the Evans Scholars Foundation, which annually awards college scholarships to qualified caddies. This led to several more such foundation grants.
Beginning with the initial contribution of $30,000 to UCLA in 1981, the level of contributions made by Friends of Golf has increased yearly. FOG currently allocates over $320,000 yearly to 25 university and college golf teams, hundreds of high school teams and other junior golf programs. In its 31 years, FOG has contributed nearly $6 million.
In addition to the FOG allocation program, the organization became involved in three major collegiate awards. In 1990, the late Tom Harmon, a FOG Director and former football great and Heisman Trophy winner, got the idea for a similar trophy that would honor annually an outstanding collegiate golfer/scholar. Harmon gained the endorsement of his long-time friend, Ben Hogan, and thus, in 1990, the Ben Hogan Trophy was established. From 1990 through 2001, the award honored the top student-athlete men's college golfer. Beginning in 2002, FOG partnered with Colonial Country Club and the award was changed to honor the outstanding men's amateur college golfer. The GCAA annually administers the selection process for the Hogan Award. The permanent Waterford crystal Hogan Trophy is on display at Bel-Air Country Club with a replica going to the winner's university.
In 2002, The Byron Nelson Award was established and named for FOG's 1986 Honoree. This trophy goes to a men's golfer based on academics, citizenship and golf accomplishments over the course of his collegiate career as selected by the GCAA.
In 1994, FOG, together with the Ladies Professional Golf Association, established the Dinah Shore Trophy presented annually to the lady collegiate scholar/golfer chosen by the NCAA. For many years, Dinah regularly participated in the Friends of Golf Tournament, both as a player and a participant in the annual banquet program. FOG makes a $5,000 grant in the winner's name to her university's women's golf program.
Friends of Golf, Inc. celebrates its 32nd Anniversary on April 18, 2011 and will continue to provide substantial support for the encouragement of junior golf programs throughout the USA. Perhaps the highest tribute that can be paid to FOG is the annual flood of emotional ï¿½??thank youï¿½?? letters from the college coaches, high school coaches, administrators and other recipients of its contributions. Ranking with this high praise is the statement by golf legend Byron Nelson, who called FOG's event "the finest one-day tournament of its kind in the country."