Safari Club of Golf pushes forward with fundraising mission

  • The Safari Club of Golf raises money for local charities through golf outings. Despite COVID-19, the club has pressed on this season. Last year, they raised $26,000 for Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield. COURTESY SAFARI CLUB OF GOLF

For the Gazette
Published: 9/3/2020 8:31:49 PM

Bruce Whittier’s objective is to stay young.

“There’s a song called ‘Don’t Let the Old Man In.’ It’s very touching and it basically describes my philosophy,” he said of the Toby Keith track. “You stay young when you stay active and involved in your community. Once you let the old man into your life, you’re cooked.”

The retired 71-year-old, who had a successful career in sales, is the events chair and founder of the Safari Club of Golf, an organization that fundraises for charity though golf outings.

“We called it the Safari Club because we don’t play one course all the time. We’re always traveling,” the Southampton resident said.

Whittier has been a fighter his whole life. A diabetic, he has had two bouts of sepsis, including one that required him to be on a PICC line for six months, three back surgeries, two shoulder surgeries, foot surgery and neck surgery.

“I now bring an extra sheet to my doctor’s appointment,” he said while laughing. “I considered hanging it up this year, but I decided to keep going. It is nice because the other members have responded well to my actions.”

Founded in 2008, Whittier was quite surprised how quickly the club took off, considering he never advertised the organization to anyone.

“Originally, it was just a group of four of us that played golf,” he said. “We would get bored of the same golf course, so we traveled to other courses. Sure enough, we would talk to people about the other courses and within a couple months, our group had grown from four to 32.”

As the group grew, Whittier felt that there was an opportunity to help the community. For Whittier, who loves to golf and meeting new people, his goal was to make an impact on people’s lives even as he got older.

“I was determined to prove to people that we still had something to give,” he said. “That’s when we started with the charitable work, donating to Wounded Warriors, Soldier On and now Shriners Hospital.”

The club hosted an event at The Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley on Monday. Even with limited capacity, they raised $2,500 for Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield.

“We usually charge a small member fee each year to accommodate office expenses,” Whittier said. “However, this year, I decided that the fee would instead be donated directly to Shriners. It lets people know that 100% of the money that they give us is going directly to charity.”

Shriners Hospital specializes in pediatric care. Lee Kirk, the administrator of Shriners Hospitals for Children in Springfield, has worked with Whittier since 2016.

“They have made a huge impact in sustaining our mission of care, regardless of ability to pay,” Kirk said. “Bruce is one of the most detailed, organized and get-it-done guys I’ve ever worked with.”

Over the past four years, Whittier and the Safari Club have raised a total of $107,000 for Shriners Hospital. At the end of last season they submitted a check for $26,000.

“The group of over 100 people that he has gotten to help our cause is amazing,” said Kirk. “To fundraise money through various golf courses in New England, it really is a unique thing.”

With COVID-19 sweeping across the U.S. for the past six months, it has become difficult for the Safari Golf Club to host its typical gatherings. Working at 85 percent capacity, the biggest issue is the inability to have large group outings at a golf course.

In a regular event, the club will have between 120 and 140 people on the course. However, health and safety restrictions have caused a lower turnout.

“Instead of letting people casually play across the golf course, we are now all starting on the first hole at a specific time,” he said.

The club has been able to have between 50 and 85 people at their events. Even though the numbers are down, Whittier expects the club will have a successful year.

“I think we should be able to get $10-15,000 dollars this year,” he said. “The key thing is that it has not diminished the importance of what we are trying to accomplish.”

The Safari Club of Golf’s next event will be at the Quail Hollow Golf Course in Oakham on Sept. 11.


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