A member of one of the PGA’s best-known golfing families has admitted to feeling ‘honoured’ after winning the Toby Sunderland award in recognition of his charitable efforts.
Phil Harrison, Wildwood Golf & Country Club’s managing director and PGA professional, was nominated for the prestigious ward after raising thousands of pounds for numerous causes close to the Surrey club and further afield.
Harrison, whose brothers Steve and John are also PGA professionals, collected the accolade at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. He also received £1,000 for a charity of his choice.
The 53-year-old said fund-raising efforts helped the club engage with the wider community and improved its reputation while Harrison revealed he was also driven on a personal level to make a difference for those less fortunate.
Among the beneficiaries have been Loxwood Primary School (a Charitable Trust which received £25,000), Cranleigh Age Concern, £10,000; Alfold Youth Club; The Virgineers Golf Society, which has benefited by £100,000 plus the NSPCC, Rising Stars and Golf Foundation.
“It’s a great thrill and honour to get the award as I have worked hard the last few years,” said Harrison. “When I took over Wildwood it did not have a good reputation in the local community so I wanted to engage with the community and got involved with the youth, schools, elderly and big companies like Virgin. I hosted Virgin’s big charity day of which some of the money raised was spent locally. We’ve bought a minibus for a local school that is run on a charity basis for deprived children.
“There’s an Age Concern centre in Cranleigh that was going to close down due to all the cut backs. I went round to see and it’s a place where a lot of pensioners go to play cards or have a meal and do dance classes and a range of activities. I had my own birthday golf day and raised £10,000 for them to keep going. I’m doing that every year for them now and they’ve had enough money to refurbish the centre and can now rent it out for christenings and various functions like that to make it more commercially viable.
“I’ve worked with the local youth club raising money for them but also giving them free golf lessons. I come from a working class background and golf has been brilliant for me and my brothers and I just think it’s important to give something back if you can.
“I’m in a position as managing director that I can make all the decisions on what we host and what I can give away and it’s snowballed from that. My business partner Edmund O’Reilly Hyland is also a big charity man and that’s been great because if I want to do something I always get his support.”
Warren Sunderland, son of Toby after whom the award is named after, praised Harrison for his fund-raising efforts.
“It’s a great pleasure to present this award to Phil Harrison who has not only derived a great career out of the game of golf but also used it to help raise important funds for a number of charities,” he said. “I congratulate Phil on his efforts over a number of years and look forward to hearing more about his fund-raising projects in the future.”
PGA chief executive Sandy Jones also hailed Harrison’s charity work. “As a player, coach and now as managing director of Wildwood, Phil Harrison has been a credit to himself and his fellow PGA professionals but the fact he has also worked so tirelessly to help others in less fortunate positions speaks volumes for his character.He is a very worthy winner and I offer my sincere congratulations to someone who is an inspiration to us all.”
Harrison has decided to split the £1,000 for charity between two local charities – The Jigsaw Trust and Muntham House School.
John Watson (Total Golf Analysis), whose daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008, has raised more than £63,000 for The Wayahead charity, which looks into Acquired Brain Injury, Childflight and the Wish Upon a Star charities providing flights and holidays for sick and deserving children.
Gavin Kavanagh (Delgany Golf Club) was inspired by close friend Peter Gaw, who has two children suffering from the Down’s Syndrome. Gaw started a project to build a new Down’s Syndrome Centre in Dublin and Kavanagh has raised more than €75,000 to support the development
Cameron Clark (Moor Hall) has supported Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Acorns Hospice, raising £8,500 from his Captain’s Day towards the hospital’s cancer ward.
Richard Herring (Orsett) completed his first charity fund-raising event at the age of 14 and hasn’t stopped since. More recently, moved by the effect of Alzheimer’s on his grandmother and family, he elected to complete a golfing marathon of eight rounds in one day – with money going to the Alzheimer’s Society and also Macmillan, the nominated charity of club captain Steve Biggin. In total he raised £4,000.
Stephen McAllister (Playsport Golf) established the inaugural Teddy Bear Foundation Pro-Am in 2005, helping children with special needs. In those intervening years, the pro-am has raised huge sum and is expected to break the £500,000 mark in 2011.
Tony Pitts (St Austell) hopped on his bike and cycled 500 miles from Launceston to Paris in aid of Cornwall Down’s Syndrome. He also ran a golf day raising more than £3,000 in total.
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