As the Dominion Energy Charity Classic descends this week onto Country Club of Viriginia for the eighth straight year, another, less publicized golf tournament was played at another, lesser-known local golf course.
The Fred Funk and Friends Golf Gala took place Monday at Kanawha Club in Goochland.
The event, held quietly each year as a sort of unofficial kickoff event for the DECC, features around two dozen of the same golf pros who play on the PGA Tour Champions, which has brought the DECC to Richmond each year since 2016.
Fred Funk and Friends was born, fittingly, out of the friendship between Fred Funk, a longtime pro golfer who joined Tour Champions in 2006, and Bobby Sandford, a local Air Force veteran and seasoned pilot and flight instructor.
Sandford met Funk 16 years ago during a celebrity fly-along in an F-16. They hit it off and eventually decided to host a small golf tournament to coincide with the DECC and would give all the money they raised to charities geared toward U.S. military veterans.
“Through that ride they became friends and now they’re best of friends,” said Mike Mickel, the owner of Chesterfield-based Dominion Aviation who helps Sandford put on the tournament each year.
The event started small, played its first year on holes Sandford had built onto his property east of Richmond. It then moved to The Foundry Golf Club in Powhatan for a year, before Mickel introduced Sandford to Fred Tattersall, who owns Kanawha Club.
It’s been played at the ultra-private 9-hole Goochland course ever since and has grown each year. This week’s iteration attracted 27 pros, the most ever, and sold 20 teams of three amateurs, who pay $5,000 per team.
“It’s become extremely popular to the point where I have a waiting list every year for teams and Bobby gets calls throughout the season from pros who want to be a part of it,” Mickel said. “And that’ s a pretty cool place to be.”
Mickel said the event raises $125,000 to $200,000 each year and has given $1.5 million over the eight years. The tournament’s expenses are covered by a foundation tied to the family of Richmond Sarge Reynolds and all the proceeds go to Virginians for Veterans and Folds of Honor.
True to its theme, the event goes all-in on patriotism. Participants wear ballcaps clad with an American flag and warm up on Kanawha’s driving range while the U.S. Army Brass Quintet plays in front of the clubhouse.
Then comes a procession from the honor guard from Army base Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., along with recognizing a long line of veterans, both retired and active duty, who volunteer as caddies for the day.
“Opening ceremonies are the best part of the deal,” Mickel said. “It is an emotional, patriotic, God-bless-USA-type of opening ceremony.”
In addition to Funk, other pros that played with the amateurs at Monday’s event included notable names like Bernhard Langer, Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen, Rocco Mediate and last year’s DECC champion, Steven Alker.
Another part of the draw for both the amateurs and pros is Kanawha Club, which sits tucked away off River Road West in Goochland.
It’s a small, but impeccably manicured nine-hole, par 3 course that Tattersall had built 18 years ago.
A self-described “golf nut,” Tattersall is heavily involved in nonprofit First Tee and was a founding member of the nearby Kinloch Golf Club.
He also became a member of Headwaters Golf Club, a high-end, 9-hole course near Asheville, North Carolina and realized that was one concept the competitive Richmond golf market didn’t have.
“I just felt like Richmond could use that,” Tattersall said.
A longtime money manager with firms like First & Merchants Bank, Lowe Brockenbrough & Co., Tattersall Advisory Group and 1607 Capital Partners, Tattersall ran with the idea.
He bought 50 rolling acres in Goochland and enlisted golf course architect Lester George, who designed Kinloch, First Tee of Greater Richmond’s downtown and Chesterfield courses, as well as renovations at CCV’s James River Course and Willow Oaks Country Club.
Tattersall named his course Kanawha Club in honor of the Kanawha River and Kanawha County, West Virginia, where he and his wife grew up, and for its references in Richmond such as the Kanawha Canal.
“We decided it would link our past to our present lives in Richmond,” Tattersall said.
The club opened in 2005 and has grown slowly, although Tattersall wouldn’t disclose how many members it has.
“I’m very happy to break even every year,” he said. “Our members come from all over and it has taken me a while to fill it up.
“The members enjoy the smallness of the club… and I don’t just mean the property itself. It’s a small membership and most of the members know each other,” he said.
Many of those members play in or volunteer for the Fred Funk and Friends events, Tattersall said.
“A lot of them look forward to getting to meet the pros in a more intimate setting,” he said.
And the pros love the club, too, he said, both for its pristine condition and for a chance at a leisurely warm up before the week’s big tournament at Country Club of Virginia.
“Part of it is they’re only playing nine holes, so they don’t wear themselves out and it doesn’t take all day,” Tattersall said.
As for the DECC, festivities began this week CCV’s James River Course, and get into full swing today with the Tom Farrell Memorial Pro-Am, which, like the Fred Funk event, pairs the pros with amateurs who pay for the experience.
Day two of the pro-am will be held Thursday, followed by the full DECC tournament running Friday through Sunday.
As usual, the tournament is one of three in the tour’s Schwab Cup playoff series.
In addition to Dominion Energy, other big-named sponsors of the DECC include Markel, Henrico EDA, The Riverstone Group, VCU Health,
Like the Kanawha event, the DECC also leans heavily toward charitable causes and has raised more than $9 million for nonprofits since its inception.
Source: Richmond BizSense