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On Par with Profits

After holding a golf tournament for several years, the Fountain Lake (Hot Springs, Ark.) Booster Club decided to take a swing at something a little less serious this year--a Putt Putt Tournament. By raising nearly $2,300, the inaugural event was on par with the amount made by the last couple of years' golf fundraisers. 

With golf course rental fees hovering around $5,000, the Fountain Lake High School Booster Club in Hot Springs, Ark., decided to consider events that don't carry such a hefty investment. "The golf course we were using is gorgeous, but the club can't hand over money it doesn't have," says booster club member Verna Taylor. "So we decided to look into other options this year. One of the schoolteachers and her husband own a mini-golf course in our town, and we asked for a quote. She offered to let us use it for free, which made the decision to go ahead with the new tournament easy. It was good for us and good for the venue--they got a lot of advertising from it."
 
The Putt Putt Tournament drew about 30 contestants, and lasted from 9:00 a.m. until noon on May 5. Participants could pre-register, or simply walk in. Either way, it cost $10 to enter. Aside from the prizes and supplies for the concession stand, there were no expenses for the event.

During registration the mini-golfers were placed in one of six age categories: under 5 years old, 5-10, 11-12, 13-15, and 16 through adult. Although the scoring was done according to these categories, families or other groups of players could go through the course together, regardless of their ages.

When they were ready to tee-off, participants were given their choice of two courses. They both had the same par, but offered different scenery--one included a waterfall, while the other featured a pirate ship.

After completing the course, each person's score was added to the scoreboard, which was updated with each completed card. "I was surprised at what a good time the kids had watching that," Taylor says. "They would turn their scorecard in, and then keep coming back to look at the board. It was a lot of fun for them to see the names and scores get bumped and moved around."
 
Participants did not have to stay while the other contestants finished the course, but most did. The club had refreshments available--soft drinks, water, and Gatorade for $1.00, hot dogs for $1.50, and chips for $0.50--which allowed people to eat and socialize while they were waiting for the results. "We set up the tent and grill in the morning so it would be ready later in the day, and we had drinks available all morning," Taylor says. "We started grilling while people were still on the course, so we had some hot dogs ready as the first ones were finishing. I believe having food available gets more people out, knowing they can relax and eat with the kids while they're supporting the school."

Once all the scorecards were in, the final tallies were made and prizes awarded. "We gave first and second place trophies in each category," Taylor says. "And we split the adult group into men and women with a small monetary prize for them-- $25, $15, and $10 for first, second, and third. We wanted them to at least get their entry fee back."
 
Prior to the tournament, coaches for the 12 high school sports each recruited at least three hole sponsors, as they had done for the golf tournament in previous years. However, rather than asking for a $100 sponsorship--the amount requested for the golf event--the sponsorships were reduced to $50. "In the past, most of our profit was from the hole sponsors, and the golf would just about pay for itself," Taylor says. "But since this year's venue didn't charge us, and we had very few expenses, it was all profit. We also felt that since it was putt putt, we wouldn't ask as much from hole sponsors. On the morning of the event, we placed our little golf signs for the sponsors on the course, along the venue's fence, and by the highway. That attracted attention for us and gave the sponsors more advertising, too."

To publicize the event, the club prepared flyers to be placed throughout the town. "As soon as we had our meeting in January, we started working on our flyers," Taylor says. "They were printed two weeks later. Then we started hitting the pavement and talking it up. Participants are only going to be as excited as you can make them be. If it sounds exciting, they'll look forward to coming."

Along with getting the word out, the club has another key to success: listening to feedback and trying to improve each year. "We're planning on holding another Putt Putt Tournament," Taylor says. "But we heard that several people had conflicts with this year's date, so based on that and feedback from our participants, we'll try to have it on a week night. We wished that more people could have turned out this year, but it was our first try. We expect to get better at it in the future."



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