Joel Zuckerman hopes charity golf book hits a hole in one
Part-time Parkite Joel Zuckerman has written golf books for 18 years. Two of his recent works, "Pete Dye Golf Courses" and "Pro’s Pros," won Book of the Year by the International Network of Golf at the PGA Shows in 2009 and 2014.
His eighth book, "Golfers Giving Back: Exceptional Charity Golf Tournaments Coast to Coast," will be available in two weeks, and Zuckerman is looking forward to its reception.
"Every book is a labor of love and frustration," Zuckerman said during an interview with The Park Record. "It’s always a thrill to see a book come out, but this will have a special place in my catalog because it’s the first book that I created out of nothing."
"Golfers Giving Back" is an examination of 55 of more than 140,000 charity golf tournaments that he deems unique.
While a couple of the events in the book are only in their second or third season, some have been running for 55 years, Zuckerman said.
"One of these, the Lurie Children’s Pro Amateur Golf Tournament was started in Chicago back in 1961," he said. "The Lurie Children’s Hospital is one of the best children’s hospitals in the country."
Some of the chapters are about memorial golf tournaments that donate to charities in a deceased person’s name.
"Lisa Beth Gerstman died in the 1970s when a bus fell over an embankment on the way to a summer camp in Hershey, Pennsylvania," Zuckerman said. "At that time, the family didn’t have the money to do anything, but 32 years later, in 2002, they started the [Lisa Beth Gerstman] Foundation that helps differently-abled kids attend summer camp."
Other chapters tell about golf tournaments that benefit environmental causes.
"The Billy Frank Jr. Memorial Golf Classic that raised money for the nonprofit Salmon Defense in Seattle," Zuckerman said. "Billy Frank was a die-hard environmentalist and was arrested many times for fishing in places he wasn’t supposed to."
Each chapter tells about the tournament, who started it, why they started it and what their passion is.
"I wanted to show the wider world a closely guarded secret, which is that charity golf tournaments make billions of dollars for thousands of causes every year," Zuckerman said. "More than 12 million golfers participate in an average of 2,800 tournaments in every state each year.
"The thing is, 99 percent of all golfers don’t know this," he said. "Yes, they may participate in one or two charity golf tournaments a year, but they don’t know that this is a billion-dollar business."
The idea came from a friend, who wanted a copy of Zuckerman’s previous book, "Pro’s Pros," which is about some of the best pro golfers in the country.
"He told me he was going to play in a charity golf tournament and wanted to give the pros a copy of my book," Zuckerman remembered. "Then he said, ‘ the way, you should write a book about charity golf tournaments.’ And I immediately felt that would be a winner."
Zuckerman began with an email blast.
"I’ve written freelance articles as well for local publications all over town including The Park Record, Park City Magazine, Utah Outdoors and Salt Lake Magazine," he said. "Since I had developed a bunch of contacts, I sent off an email asking what they knew about their local charity golf tournaments."
He pulled together a list and decided which ones he wanted to call.
"It wasn’t black and white," Zuckerman said. "I didn’t write about tournaments that were 10 years old or only raise 100 grand. I just wanted to hear their story and if it struck me as unique or interesting, I wanted to tell their story."
Some of the events in the book give up to 97 cents of every dollar to charities, while others only give 26 cents or 30 cents to their cause, he said.
Other still didn’t disclose how much they donated to the charities.
"It really didn’t matter, because another reason why I wanted to write the book is because the game of golf, in general, is faltering," Zuckerman said.
Over the past decade, "the visionaries" and city planners have emphasized the need for more golf courses, according to the writer.
"But while the number of courses have gone up, the number of golfers have remained flat," Zuckerman said. "As the generation between the ages 45 and older gets on, the Millennials aren’t filling the gap behind them. There aren’t enough golfers to sustain it."
He asked his friend, renowned golf champion Dave Stockton, to write the book’s foreword.
"I wrote this book to hopefully get people interested in golf," Zuckerman said.
With two weeks to go before publication, the book has already presold 10,000 copies and will be included in many of the giveaway bags of the tournaments Zuckerman wrote about.
"Charity tournaments give away T gifts, a gift bag with items that sometimes include shirts, golf balls, hats and things like that," he said. "Some are more elaborate, depending on the T gift budget. I’ve seen some gifts that include golf bags and golf shoes. So, I was able to get the organizers of a majority of these events to purchase my book for their gift bags."
The hardback book will retail for $40, but Zuckerman sold it to the charities for $20.
"[Organizers] liked the idea that golfers participating in a tournament that benefits a battered women’s shelter in Houston will be able to read about a cancer charity event in Cleveland and those who are in the cancer event in Cleveland will read about a military event in California," he said.
Some of the tournaments, such as The Bill Sugra Memorial Fund Golf Tournament in New York, didn’t initially have more than $15 per bag in their T gift budget, but decided to pay the extra amount to include the book in their gift bags.
"The organization, named after Bill Sugra, who died in the 9/11 attacks, raises money to assist and encourage the needy and disadvantaged," Zuckerman said. "Bill’s parents are blue-collar folks. He’s a plumber and she’s a kindergarten teacher. They were devastated when Bill died and now are very excited that Bill will be remembered not only through the tournament, but in the book."
Anyone who wants to purchase individual copies of "Golfers Giving Back: Exceptional Charity Golf Tournaments Coast to Coast," can do so by visiting http://www.golfgiveback.com .
The link will takes potential buyers to Zuckerman’s official website, vagabondgolfer.com.
Although based in Savannah, Georgia, Zuckerman considers himself a "much-time" Park City resident.
"My wife and I have had a place out here since 1999, but we’re not transitioning fulltime because we have a nice life in Georgia," he said. "My plan, however, is to be out here winter and summer and in Savannah winter and fall. So, we’re moving in that direction."
For more information about Joel Zuckerman, visit http://www.vagabondgolfer.com. Zuckerman is also working on a sequel to the book and asks anyone who knows of a golf charity to email him suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jennifer Pharr Davis, the 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, who set a record of covering the Appalachian Trail will speak of the ‘Pursuit of Endurance’ at the Park City Library on Wednesday.