Some 100 junior golfers descended on Shawnee Hills Country Club late last week as part of the Fowler-Bonan Foundation 'Clothes For Kids' Junior Golf Tournament.
As of recently the event, in its ninth year, has been added to the Southern Illinois Golf Association schedule as a summer stop on the tour, but as founder Dale Fowler knows, those that showed up in Harrisburg came with better intentions.
"They were here for a great cause," Fowler said.
The Fowler-Bonan Foundation provides new clothing and shoes, at no cost, for underprivileged children based on a referral system from area schools. They assist hundreds of area children annually in eleven southern Illinois counties, according to Dale Fowler.
This year, the event combined with an earlier tournament at West Frankfort, raised $50,000.
Fowler fondly recalls the first year he had the tournament that raised $1,500 and adds that the fuel for the fire never died inside of Fowler.
"The whole reason I started doing this was a memory I had when I was about nine years old and growing up on a country road seeing a school bus pull up and pick up two children in tattered clothes. That memory is embedded in me.
"Nine years ago, I said I wanted to do something about that and here we are now. We're able to support about 400 to 500 children. Teachers have reached out to us and told us stories about how providing these children with new shoes and clothes, many of which are receiving new items for the first time in their life, display a new found confidence and self-esteem in the classroom."
Fowler added that sentiment alone solidifies and validates what the program means to the area.
"I can't say enough about the generosity from the business that help us out as well," Fowler said. It's all just been very amazing."
Aside from some warm temperatures on Thursday and Friday, weather wasn't an issue at Shawnee Hills Country Club.
"They rolled out the red carpet for us," Fowler said of the course. "They welcomed all these kids and many of their parents. They were very accommodating in many ways. I think Shawnee Hills Country Club also realizes that this is the future of golf and what a better way to help sustain the sport by giving these juniors an opportunity to play golf."
Michael Dann can be reached at mdann@dailyregister.