By Colin Riddle  

OCTOBER 7, 2011 10:35 a.m. Comments (0)

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When Tom Holgate attended the BMW Charity Pro-Am last year he saw a flourishing tournament, but also realized how much more of an impact the event could have on Spartanburg.

“This needs to become a more prominent event for everybody,” said Holgate, president of American Credit Acceptance, who organized a program to bring the heft of four Spartanburg colleges to increase interest in the Pro-Am in Spartanburg, which tournament organizers said has remained stagnant.

The tournament is held at Carolina Country Club in Spartanburg, Thornblade Club in Greenville and this year, the Greenville Country Club’s Chanticleer Course has been added.

Golfers at Converse College, Spartanburg Community College, University of South Carolina Upstate and Wofford College will take part in the Collegiate Challenge, a competition between the schools to sell corporate skyboxes and tickets to the Champion’s Pavilion at the Carolina Country Club for next year’s BMW Charity Pro-Am.

Also, the colleges will be selling team spots for the BMW Collegiate Challenge Pro-Am to be held at the Country Club of Spartanburg on the Wednesday before the tournament on May 16, 2012.

“Ultimately, this will bring more excitement to the tournament and the community,” said Mike Ivester, director of sales at the BMW Charity Pro-Am.

Students met last week at the Carolina Country Club to discuss strategies and meet with BMW Charity Pro-Am leaders.

The Collegiate Challenge will also benefit the colleges and students on many levels, organizers say.

Students from their respective schools will compete to gain corporate sponsors by giving presentations to businesses and meeting with business leaders in the Spartanburg community.

This will give students the opportunity to learn about business while still in school as well as experience communicating with business professionals.

“You don’t see something like this on college students’ resumes,” said Holgate. “This is a great opportunity for colleges and the Spartanburg community.”

The colleges will also hold monthly meetings during the competition to discuss strategy and update their progress. Ivester called it a friendly competition that will bring the schools together in a new way.

Most importantly, charity has not been forgotten. Since 2001, the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corp. has donated more than $8.5 million to more than 100 charities in the Upstate and western North Carolina.

The charities for the tournament will be announced in November. At the Collegiate Challenge Pro-Am, teams of foursomes will compete for a $24,000 purse, which will be donated on behalf of the winning team to an assigned charity.

This will give the college players who will be teamed with community leaders and Nationwide Tour professionals a true sense of professional competition while helping the tournament’s charities, said Ivester.

Another purse has been set apart for the sales competition, which will be distributed to the assigned charities by percentage according to the schools’ finishing places.

Also, all four schools will be recognized at the Champion’s Pavilion during the BMW Charity Pro-Am at the Carolina Country Club.

“We’re hoping to promote Spartanburg and give back to the community,” said Amanda Newell, senior leader of the Converse golf team.

The students said they are eager to get involved with the community and to gain experience in business and philanthropy while making strides as athletes.

“We can really get a lot out of an event like this,” said Erin Morgan, Wofford’s junior leader.

The colleges will also be setting up booths at each tournament to display their success and allow the community to learn more about the colleges and their involvement.

“This will get us to the point where this is a Spartanburg event and a Spartanburg tournament that benefits everyone,” said Holgate.

Holgate, the Carolina Country Club and the BMW Charity Pro-Am began searching for an innovative way to promote the tournament since the close of last year’s tournament.

This will allow the tournament to have exposure in advance to the actual tournament, which will ultimately lead to an increase in attendance, more corporate sponsors, and greater wealth for a variety of charities.

Each corporate sponsor sold this year by the four colleges will be an addition to last year’s sponsorships, said Holgate.

“This could serve as a great example to other cities similar to Spartanburg that hold Nationwide events,” said Ivester.

The BMW Charity Pro-Am organizers would like to serve as a catalyst nationally for new charity tournaments.

“The real victory will be seen when we see increased money going to the charities,” said Holgate.

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