Mini-tour players unite to help tornado victims


This is a story about tragedy and the human spirit. No, that’s far too simple. This is a story about tragedy and the human spirit and helping people – people you’ve never even met – in a time of adversity, and doing the courageous thing, the right thing and the honorable thing, and how the game of golf was able to tie it all together.

An entire nation watched last week as one of the worst tornados in recorded history ripped through Moore, Okla., leaving a tight-knit community completely ravaged and the rest of us feeling completely helpless. It would be shortsighted – read that, wrong – to myopically claim that professional golfers were at the forefront of this relief effort for the sake of this story, but like so many others who wanted to contribute somehow, anyhow, they were certainly part of the effort. And not just the professional golfers whose names you already know.

It wasn’t long after the devastation was measured that Mike Dunphy, the player development manager for Cleveland/Srixon, knew some grassroots fundraising could be done at the game’s grassroots level. He texted Paul Apyan, an NGA Pro Golf Tour member and the purveyor of the popular Mini Tour Problems handle on Twitter. “You have an account that can reach a lot of people,” Dunphy told him. “You can do something about this.”

Apyan, 26, from Chattanooga, Tenn., already knew about the disaster. His friend and fellow mini-tour regular Jason Meece had forwarded a video taken by yet another player, Mack Hamilton, showing the tornado ripping through Moore. As Oklahoma natives, both Meece and Hamilton understood the destruction being done in their home state.

It wasn’t long until “5 Percent Moore” was born. The objective behind the idea was exactly what it says in the title. Apyan asked his fellow mini-tour players to donate five percent of their tournament earnings last week to the relief efforts. Just five percent to help out a community struggling to find what was left of their homes through the rubble.

This is the part of the story where the difference needs to be explained between PGA Tour players traversing the country in private jets and mini-tour players living week-to-week on limited funds. “Just to tee it up, to have that opportunity, it’s $900-950,” Apyan explained. “And you’ve got to get there – that’s another $100 in gas. If you don’t have host housing, then you’ll have to go on Priceline trying to outbid guys you’re playing against for a two-star hotel room. Then you’re going to have to feed yourself, maybe $10 per meal, but sometimes you have to think about even doing that.”

Let’s not belittle the contributions of Rickie Fowler, the Oklahoma State product who matched the first $100,000 donated by fans. Or Hunter Mahan, another Cowboy who gave money to the Red Cross. Or Stuart Appleby, who tweeted that since he wasn’t even supposed to play in the Crowne Plaza Invitational last week, he’d give the $16,864 that he received for a share of 48th place. Or the so many other elite players who donated either without much publicity or anonymously.

But quite frankly, those players donating earnings and mini-tour players donating earnings are two entirely different scenarios.

Even so, Apyan was immediately barraged by mini-tour regulars wanting to help. He received text messages. He received tweets. He placed a sign-up sheet at last week’s Knoxville, Tenn., event and 28 players penciled in their names. And those are just the ones he knows about. Apyan keeps hearing from more players on other tours asking how they can join.

In many instances, it’s not a lot of money. A tie for 48th place earned a grand total of $903 for Apyan last week. Do the math and that’s $45.15 – but it’s better than nothing.

“One tank of gas is not make or break for me, but it could really do something for someone,” he said. “It can get people food or water, maybe help a kid in the area. I don’t know. All you can do is try to help out.”

Conrad Shindler hadn’t heard about “5 Percent Moore.” But like so many of his fellow mini-tour golfers – and like so many of his fellow Americans – he felt compelled to contribute to the relief effort. So prior to competing in last week’s Gateway Buick GMC Classic on the Adams Golf Pro Tour Series, the 24-year-old Texas A&M grad pledged to donate his entire paycheck to the Moore school system.

“There was a little extra motivation,” he said. “It was like, let’s try to dig down deep and get up and down or let’s go birdie this hole, because that’s more money I can raise.”

Shindler indeed dug deep and made plenty of birdies, posting scores of 65-69-66-66 to win his first professional title by four strokes. And yes, the entire $15,000 paycheck went right to Oklahoma.

“I just realize where I come from and the opportunities I have,” he continued. “I’m just blessed and fortunate to step on the course every day for my job. I don’t have to sit behind a desk. I get to play a game. There are going to be many more opportunities down the road to make more money. Even though it was a winning check, that’s not going to be the difference maker later on. It’s obviously a big boost of confidence to win at this level, but me receiving this check is not going to be anything that defines future success.”

That’s been the rallying cry for so many mini-tour golfers over the past week, from those donating $15,000 to those donating $45.15 to those donating even less. It’s money that these players need, but it’s also money that they know the people of Moore, Okla., need even more.

That was the idea behind “5 Percent Moore.” It’s part of a story about tragedy and the human spirit, but that’s not the entire story. There’s so much more to it – and the game of golf was able to tie it all together.

Anyone wishing to join the “5 Percent Moore” pledge may contact the NGA TOUR offices at 800-992-8748 or mail their donations to the NGA TOUR c/o #5PercentMoore at 550 Hwy 9 E, Unit B, Longs, S.C., 29568.