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Setting a New Par

In Missoula, Mont., the Big Sky High School Booster Club decided to take a swing at hosting its first golf tournament. With the net profit reaching about $9,000, the club is planning on making it an annual occurrence. 

The athletic program at Big Sky High School (Missoula, Mont.) receives 100-percent of its support from the Big Sky Booster Club, which keeps the club's members aware of the need to plan successful fundraisers. They also know that it's important for the community to realize that the booster club is keeping athletics alive.

"In our situation, the school is not in a position to fund middle school and high school athletics," says booster club member Mike King. "When we get that message out with our fundraisers, people are more moved to action. They know we're trying to keep--and even grow--the school's athletic program, and they want to help."

This year, the club's members wanted to host an event that would be fun, and profitable. They decided on something that hadn't been done before in their ski-town--hosting a golf tournament. "We're a small community and there are tons of dinners with auctions and other fundraisers like that," King says. "So we decided to do the tournament, but tried to make it fairly reasonably priced so a lot of the locals would participate."

It cost each participant $125 to play. That fee included the round of golf, the use of a golf cart, lunch, and a welcome packet that contained a t-shirt with the high school's logo on it and passes to attend two football, volleyball, and basketball games. There were also chances to win prizes along the course. 

"To put it into context, if someone walks in off the street and wants to play a round of golf at that course, it's going to cost about $75," King says. "We were able to negotiate our club's cost with the course down to $30 per player. That worked out great. With 90 participants, it was an expense for the club, but it still allowed us to make a profit."

The club also worked hard to make the tournament fun and unique. "We had a few different games on the course," King says. "For one of them, we had a student-athlete who won a state championship in golf for a nearby school this year hitting the drive for players. They could purchase his drive if they wanted to, with the idea that it might help their score.

"Then we had a contest on a par-three hole," he continues. "People could try to hit a T-Shot into a circle we had marked. There's also a small pond on the course and a local whitewater rafting company put a raft in it, so we had a challenge to see if players could hit a ball into the raft. It cost $10 to try each of those, and participation was voluntary. Student-athletes were running the games, so it also gave people a chance to meet them."
 
By adding these extra elements and keeping in mind that not all of its participants were avid golfers, the club was able to make it fun and enjoyable for everyone. "It's important to be creative," King says. "For example, you don't necessarily need to give away golf-related prizes, because a lot of the participants don't play often. We went to restaurants and movie theaters for gift certificates--and we even had vouchers for babysitting from people within the community donated. We tried to incorporate things that have value to somebody."

Along with having most of the contest prizes donated, the club was able to secure food at no cost from local vendors and restaurants for the lunch. And the Big Sky Boosters brought in additional revenue by recruiting hole sponsorships from local businesses and community members.

"It cost $250 to sponsor a hole," King says. "We created signs that went by each hole with its sponsor. And then each of the sponsors received a season's pass for all of the athletic games at the school. That added something of value for the sponsors--it would cost $150 to buy one of those passes--without adding to the club's expenses. We ended up with sponsors for all of the 18 holes, so it worked out well."

Planning the tournament took about 60 hours, which were spread out through three months of work. "Most of it was done within the last 45 days," King says. "That's when we were getting prizes and publicizing the event to potential players through the local newspaper, radio station, and flyers that we printed and posted throughout town. We also asked the school to send a message with information on its e-mail list-serve."

With a successful tournament in the books, the club is planning on holding another event next year. "It helped that I have some experience with golf, so we weren't starting from scratch with the idea and elements that were needed," King says. "One thing we may do differently is to include an option where teams can use a scramble format, so they only record one score, per hole, for their team. That will make the non-golfers feel a little more comfortable playing, rather than keeping score for everyone's hits for the whole course, like we did this year. Next year we'll probably have both formats and teams can pick their best fit."



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