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August 29, 1999

Tim Finchem

Kevin Harris

Tom Knoll

Isaac McAllister

Don Plusquellic

Tom Strong


TOM STRONG: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Tom Strong. I'm the Tournament Director for the World Golf Championships NEC Invitational. And on behalf of the International Federation of PGA TOURs, I want to welcome everybody to the final day of the NEC Invitational. We've had an exciting week that not only included great golf with a great international field; we also have had a great Ambassador of Golf in Gary Player. We have had tremendous support from our sponsors, our supporters, and our fans, and some challenging weather, to say the least. Which, I have to tip my hat to the volunteers, the staff, and Firestone Country Club for the outstanding job they did to get us through the rain. The South Course at Firestone Country Club was in great shape. It was extremely firm at the beginning of the week, and then the rain softened it up. But you've seen some great play by the players, and it's been extremely well-received by the players. And today, we will present the champion with the inaugural NEC Invitational Gary Player Cup. While the week has been focused by the competition, not to be overlooked is the continuing charitable role that the NEC Invitational World Golf Championships plays, having a positive impact on lives locally and nationally. NEC and Akron Golf Charities have distributed millions of dollars throughout the Akron and northeast Ohio areas, and we will continue to do so as part of the World Golf Championships. Now, it's my great pleasure to welcome the PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem on behalf of the International Federation of PGA TOURs to talk about the charitable focus of the World Golf Championships. Commissioner? (Applause.)

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, Tom. Let me also just mention that in addition to myself representing the International Federation of PGA TOURs, some of my peers are with us up here, the leaders of three of the major TOURs around the world: Mr. Shimada from Japan, Arthur Sanderson of Australia, Louis Martin of South Africa have been here all week. And this is pretty much a worldwide effort in staging the World Golf Championships. Akron and Firestone Country Club had a wonderful, long relationship with golf, and we're delighted that this week, it not only is extending now to the new World Golf Championships, but also the First Tee Program. We will be announcing here this morning some details of the First Tee Program in Akron, which Tom Knoll will do. But we also want to recognize that the World Golf Championships NEC Invitational will be extending what we announced at La Costa at the Andersen Consulting. At the Andersen Consulting we announced a $500,000 contribution as part of the World Golf Championships designation of First Tee as its primary charitable beneficiary. Today, we announce a similar $500,000 contribution from the World Golf Championships NEC Invitational to First Tee, as well. I think it's important to note that while we have moved away from the old World Series of Golf to the new World Golf Championships series, the relationship between the PGA TOURs around the world and Akron Golf Charities continues, with the Akron Golf Charities receiving this year for distribution in the Akron community in the range of $1 million for charity, as well. The First Tee was announced in 1997. It had a simple objective: To create enough facilities -- affordable, accessible facilities so that any kid anywhere around the country could have the opportunity, if he or she desired, to try to learn how to play the game. As we announced that program, we didn't know at the time what would be involved in the long term, over the next 25 years of reaching that dream. So we set our sights at a reasonable level and said: Let us try by the year 2000 to begin the construction of 100 facilities all around the country, and also to determine by that time what we think the long-term prospects are. We're delighted to say today that we're well on our way to that first-phase goal, and we hope to be able to announce and will announce at some point in 2000 that we've reached the point where we have 100 facilities somewhere in the production stage. At the same time, sometime next year, we will be announcing what we think we can do with First Tee over the next 20 or 30 years and how close we can come to that long-term objective of a point in time when any kid who watches a Tiger Woods, a David Duval and a Sergio Garcia and gets excited about going out and trying to play the game, can have an accessible, affordable place to do that. These facilities take on different sizes and different dimensions. They have two common denominators: One is that, in addition to just being a place to be able to hit golf balls, they are also a place where you learn to play the game. There has to be some golf holes involved in that First Tee facility so a kid can learn the etiquette of the game, the rules of the game, the integrity of the game, how to conduct himself or herself on a golf course. With those two common denominators, we have all kinds of facilities being constructed around the country: 18-hole facilities, 9-hole facilities, little facilities with 3 holes and a driving range. But those two things remain the common denominator. We are looking forward to the point next year where we can make those announcements. But right now, we are delighted with the World Golf Championships and the International Federation of PGA TOURs has made this additional commitment. We hope to have a similar announcement when we get to Valderrama in Spain in November. Today, we would like to focus on Akron. And we are delighted that a First Tee Chapter has been created in Akron, and we look forward to, in a few minutes, signing a commitment letter between National First Tee and First Tee of Akron. And I'd like to present to you an old friend who has been very involved in our golf relationship with Akron for many years, who has headed up Akron Golf Charities in the past, who is currently chairman of the Firestone Country Club, and now is president of Akron First Tee, Tom Knoll.

TOM KNOLL: Thank you very much, Tim. I appreciate the opportunity to be here this morning. And I want to thank Tim and the members of the International Federation, who are here representing that organization this morning as a local chapter, for the continuing contribution which they have made to First Tee. As First Tee is strengthened as a global organization, each of our chapters is obviously strengthened, as well, in terms of the resources and assistance that are available to us. Before we get started with a little update on where First Tee of Akron is this morning, I want to take just a minute to introduce to you some people who have, to date, been very instrumental in the progress that we have achieved over the course of the last several months. And I trust that you will share with me the belief that we're moving in the right direction and we're moving at the right speed when we talk about what's happened so far. First, I'd like to introduce a representative who is with us this morning, the mayor of the City of Akron. And I want to say that you, at the onset, that Don Plusquellic has been very, very interested personally in this project and expressed his interests through his attendance at several of the meetings that we have had. And I take his presence here this morning as a further expression of that interest. And I very, very much appreciate his taking time out of a very busy schedule to be with us. Before we go any further, I would like Don to make a few comments on behalf of the City.

DON PLUSQUELLIC: Thank you, Tom. And I'm very pleased to be here. Although today happens to be a day where I have several other events, this is certainly one of the most important that occurs in our community for a variety of reasons. First, what it does for our exposure to the rest of the world, now that this has been a World Golf Championships, but also what it does for a number of charities. And it would be remiss if I didn't take just a moment to thank all of those involved in making this a successful tournament this year and in the past and hopefully for many, many years into the future, and that includes, obviously, NEC as the prime sponsor. We appreciate very much their sponsorship over the last several years, 11 or 12 now, and also the other sponsors of PGA TOURs, Tim, and all of the representatives here from the International Federation, all the persons who are involved in Akron Golf Charities, Tom Knoll, and all of the volunteers who make this a successful event. I couldn't go without standing in front of a microphone and expressing my appreciation to all of you who have gotten us here. If it wasn't for this tournament, we wouldn't be announcing or talking about First Tee. But I think this is a wonderful opportunity for us to partner with a group of people interested in doing something for young people and allowing -- as we do, obviously, on a regular basis -- allowing for that partnership to produce something very good for the community, an opportunity for young people to be -- at least to be exposed to, I guess is one way I would say it, but to encourage them to participate in something that really is good for a lifetime, to learn how to play the game, I think somehow we have forgotten that in our society; and sometimes that means losing and learning how to lose, and lose with some class, as well as win with some class is an important lesson. So I really want to thank everyone involved in putting this package together. I don't want to say too much here, I guess. Tom is going to announce what it is they have in mind. But I need to specifically, also, thank Tom and all of the people: Lee DiCola and Leonard Foster, all of the individuals who have gotten us to this point today. We think this is going to be a very successful venture, and I appreciate your efforts and your contribution to give our young people something else positive in their life that they can look forward to and not only playing. And I guess I have to put one -- hopefully, you'll take this the right way. On a personal level, I have never found golf to be a wonderful game. I am hoping with some lessons and some other things I need to do for myself, to find that day, one day, when I walk off and say: Boy, that was a wonderful round of golf. I have found, having a little bit of success in another athletic competition of sorts many years ago, that this is a much harder game to play than what it looks like on TV when Tiger Woods or Duval or someone hits a shot and it lands near the hole. But I know that it is a game that is worthwhile learning how to play and a game that will last a lifetime. So, I express my appreciation on behalf of the citizens of Akron for everyone involved in this effort. Thanks. (Applause.)

TOM STRONG: Also here from the City this morning who have also been working very closely with us in our efforts to develop, as Don has characterized it, a partnership with the city, first, the president of the Akron City Council. Marco Sommerville, would you stand, please? And two other councilmen, John Conti and Bob Keith. Would you please stand and be recognized. (Applause.) Again, I think their presence here this morning is just a further indication of the kind of support and interest that we have received in our endeavors. I need to take a few more minutes, if you would, to introduce some other people that need to be recognized as part of our local effort. First of all, Lee DiCola. Many of you have seen Lee introduced this week as the President of Akron Golf Charities. He also wears another very important hat, as far as I am concerned, because he is the chairman along with Leonard Foster, who I will also introduce, the cochairman of our facilities committee. And Lee and Leonard have been working very closely with the City in terms of developing the potential for a facility to host our First Tee Chapter. So Lee, would you stand, and then Leonard would you stand as well, please. (Applause.) I've kidded Lee. He's been introduced so many times this week that he's developed his wave very well. Don't move the arm; just the wrist. Also with us this morning and will be speaking later and sitting on the dais is Kevin Harris. Kevin Harris is President of the Akron Jaycees who have also been instrumental in developing our programs for the summer for our youth. And Kevin and Jaycees actually started this program a couple years ago, and it is now evolving and growing into the First Tee effort. Kevin will talk to you in a few minutes; so I'm going to leave that -- leave him to have some comments on the program himself. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't recognize somebody who has become a good friend of ours through First Tee, Leon Gilmore. He is our liaison to the National First Tee, and has been overwhelmingly supportive in all of the efforts that we've made to date in developing the chapter. We are fortunate to get Leon. He not only is a great representative for First Tee, but he is also an Akron boy. He is a graduate of Walsh Jesuit High School, and we are just tickled to death that Leon is working with us, and we thank him so much for his contribution to date. Leon, please stand and be recognized. (Applause.) I don't think I've overlooked anybody, and I hope not. I want to give you just a little update on our progress to date. We formed our chapter in April of this year, and we have to date put together what I think is a very strong and a diverse board of directors for the organization. Our representation ranges from a representative of the entire Town Golf Association, which is the oldest traveling American -- African American golf league in the Akron area, and these people have been very, very supportive of our program. They move up through the representative of the League, Lee Owens, who is on our board. The University of Akron, Akron University football coach, who has taken time out of a very busy schedule to join us and be a part of our board. And they run up through a vice-president and treasurer of Goodyear Tire. So you can see, we've accumulated a great group of people. They number about 30, and they give us great resources to do what we need to do to get this chapter where we want it to be. We have applied for a 501-C3, and we expect approval, and we are presently as Don has alluded to and as I have talked about this morning, very deep in discussions of a very productive, and I think mutually rewarding nature with the City of Akron. And our hope is that at some point in the very near future, we can bring this or a similar group back together to announce at the end as done has characterize the formation of a partnership between First Tee of Akron and the City of Akron to build a project of nine holes with a practice facility for the youth of our community, and we would look to doing that and we will continue those efforts. Tim has characterized what I think is another step in our growth, a very important one this morning. But Tim as a lawyer will appreciate the fact that I have to draw strong distinction between a memorandum of understanding and a contract; so, we are going to be signing a contract this morning. But we will be signing a contract, and what this contract does as Tim has mentioned will certify us as the 24th Official First Tee Chapter in the country. So we are looking forward to that and we will conclude that at the conclusion of our press conference this morning. With that, I'd like to turn it over to Kevin Harris, who will give us some background on our program we have conducted this summer, and also some things which we have done here at the tournament for our First Tee youth. Kevin? (Applause.)

KEVIN HARRIS: Thank you, Tom. It's such an honor to be here today and speak about the Junior golf here in Akron, and it's truly exciting to announce and be a part of the announcement of the First Tee. Three years ago when Jim Carpenter, then an executive vice-president of NEC, and came to Akron Golf Charities and had a dream about pushing the game of golf beyond it's current boundaries in Akron, the idea was to approach the Akron Jaycees. And when they came to me, I never dreamed what a life-changing event that would be. Having been involved with the youth for the last three years, helping to direct the program has been one of the best rewarding things I've ever been involved with. I'm going to be very pleased to introduce Isaac in a minute. Isaac was in our program. We have used facilities here at Firestone at the public range, and at Edwin Shaw Hospital for the past three years. We had approximately a 160 children and are providing lessons, but also trying to provide them -- that there's a lot more to the game of golf than just swinging a golf club. Cooperation of the Federation of TOURs this week, we are were able to bring the youths out on Tuesday and take them on a behind-the-scenes tour, which was a very exciting thing. They were able to go down and visit the club trailers, visit the ball-washing and the cart barn, and see that there's a whole lot of activity that goes on associated with golf; and that the business opportunity and the employment opportunities associated with this game are very diverse. And we were very fortunate to have the cooperation of everyone to have access to areas that generally are not open. I want to thank them for that. Our program this year was held both -- as I said, as at Edwin Shaw and here, and I want to thank Don Padgett for his generous offer of using the facility at the public range. We were able to provide access to the youths every morning, and we provided -- both conducted PGA Class A pro-conducted clinics and opened access to the range just for practice and the golf course. Isaac came to us through a recruitment program that Firestone was hoping to start here. And we got Isaac in our program this year, and I am very pleased to introduce him. And I'm going to let him tell his story to you. So Isaac? Thank you. (Applause.)

ISAAC McALLISTER: Hello, good morning. This was my first year in the First Tee Program, and I experienced a lot of things. Working with -- being in the First Tee Program, I have learned how to play golf, the rules, and all the important things, and I find it very challenging. But I find a lot of other things, not just playing the game challenging, but the things that you have to build to play the game, like my character and the love I have for others on the course and things like that. And the First Tee Program has opened a lot of doors for me. It has made a lot of childhood dreams come true for me, because as a child, I had always wanted to play golf, but I knew no one that I could go to and play, no one in my family played golf, or I just didn't know anyone that I could go to. But I used to always have video games that I could play. Now, First Tee, has made all my dreams come true, and I know it will make a lot of other kids who are -- had the same dreams as I had come true at a younger age, and I would just like to say that I thank everyone for having me here today and letting me do this speech, because it has meant a lot to me because they have opened doors in a new career at the Firestone Country Club. I have learned how to -- how a club runs, a golf course runs on a daily basis. Sometimes it gets crowded and sometimes it's not. But it's been very fun working here and enjoying all the nice people at the club. I have met a lot of friends. They are all here today joining me, and I thank them for being here. There have been a lot in my life, because I don't have a very lot of friends, but everybody here today, Kevin and the PGA professionals that we have teaching us at the First Tee, Steve Parker, he has been a lot -- inspiring to me in playing the game of golf, and I thank him a lot, too. And I'd just like to say thanks for everything. (Applause.)

TOM STRONG: The NEC Invitational is proud to continue the charitable support with Akron Golf Charities and the First Tee Program, and I think I would like to bring Commissioner Finchem back up with Tom Knoll to sign the 24th Chapter First Tee agreement of Akron. Gentlemen? (Applause.) There's been a lot of talk about the media center and the media, and I hope the media has enjoyed this facility. It's been outstanding, Akron Golf Charities, State of Ohio, ClubCorp and Firestone Country Club helped make this possible, and we're glad to have it here as part of the operations of this event. Now, we can open it up to questions.

Q. (Inaudible.)

COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Not really, because right now, the European TOUR is taking the lead on preparing a plan about how to extend First Tee into Europe, and I'm not certain the level of detail we will be displaying at in Valderrama, but we certainly want to make a progress report on where the strategic plan is for that. Our is assumption is we'll have a financial announcement to make, and then a statement about how we think at least at this point in time this fall First Tee might get started in Europe. Similar planning is going on in other areas of the major TOURs as well. One point, while I'm up here, I forgot to make earlier that the First Tee is a great concept and can have -- and has the potential to have an enormous impact on the growth of the game. But the extent to which First Tee is successful is 99 percent related to the quality of people that get involved with First Tee in the communities, and the commitment of those people. We look here in Akron at the type of people who have committed themselves. We know that we will be successful in Akron, but the extent to which that is repeated around the country is going to determine whether First Tee can reach its final objective. That's about all I can tell you about Europe at this point. We'll have more to say in November, thanks.

TOM STRONG: Any other questions? Well, thank you, and let's go out and have a great day and watch some great golf and see who becomes the inaugural champion for the NEC Invitational.

End of FastScripts....

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