AltruismSeptember 24, 2019

How Justin Leonard and Brad Faxon put together the Bahamas Strong Pro-Am to assist Hurricane Dorian victims

TOPSHOT-US-BAHAMAS-CANADA-WEATHER
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKITOPSHOT - People push a shopping carts past debris in the "Mudd" neighbourhood in Marsh Harbor, Great Abaco, on September 7, 2019, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. - Bahamians who lost everything in the devastating passage of Hurricane Dorian were scrambling Saturday to escape the worst-hit islands by sea or by air, after the historically powerful storm left at least 43 people dead with officials fearing a "significantly" higher toll. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

It has been more than three weeks since the Bahamas were ravaged by Hurricane Dorian, the Category 5 storm with wind gusts as high as 220 mph that leveled Great Abaco, Grand Bahama and elsewhere in the archipelago. The road to recovery has been an arduous one, laden with bureaucratic red tape and the inherent challenges that follow catastrophic disaster.

Golf and the courses on the islands are low on the priority list, but the game has a deep connection in that part of the world with the Bahamas a popular destination for everyone from the casual fan to PGA Tour player. Which is why those in the golf community are trying to do what they can to get the people there, several hundred of whom work at Baker’s Bay, The Abaco Club and other courses, back on their feet.

On Oct. 8, Brad Faxon and Justin Leonard will co-host a pro-am at Old Marsh Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Among those already committed to play are Justin Thomas, Jack Nicklaus, Jessica Korda, Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Lucas Glover, Billy Horschel, Jaye Greene, Corey Conners, Brett Quigley, Marina Alex and Charl Schwartzel. Funds raised will go directly toward relief efforts.

“They need everything,” Faxon said. “There’s no fuel, no place to stay. People need necessities like food, water and underwear because this is going to take months.”

RELATED: With the Bahamas reeling from Hurricane Dorian, local golf community looks to help lead relief efforts

How the fundraiser came to be in the first place speaks to the connection between Floridians and the Bahamas.

A well-connected Ponte Vedra Beach woman named Beth Warren, a neighbor of PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan though she doesn’t know him, was on a group text of other like women who had frequented the Bahamas on countless vacations and wanted to help. Her family’s home just outside the gates of Baker’s Bay on Great Guana Cay was destroyed in the storm but that was secondary. There were more pressing needs amid the chaos for the people she’d gotten to know over the years.

Another of the women who was on the text chain: Leonard’s wife Amanda. The idea percolated from there, with her husband reaching out to Faxon as well as PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh, and the pro-am was born.

RELATED: Tiger Woods announces One Bahamas Fund for hurricane recovery efforts as government lists 2,500 people missing

“We made friends with so many of the Bahamians that it was truly our second home,” said Warren, who isn’t a golfer but had spent more than a decade visiting Great Abaco, often spending weeks at a time there with her four children. “Our souls were there. That was the happy place.”

Warren’s efforts have extended beyond just flying a plane full of supplies there, too. In the wake of the disaster she says she has fielded calls from dozens of people whose lives have been interrupted or destroyed and has put them up in homes or flown them to Miami, where they could stay with relatives or in a hotel.

But it will be months if not years before there is any level of normalcy, particularly in Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco, where shantytowns were flattened and countless buildings reduced to rubble. The death toll is currently at 52 but that is expected to rise significantly with more than 1,300 people still registered as missing with the Bahamas government.

“There’s so much they need before they can even think about rebuilding,” Warren said. “There is a lot of need and a lot of confusion down there.”

In the meantime, every little bit of goodwill helps.

For more on the Bahamas Strong Pro-Am and how to donate, click here. https://www.bahamasstrongproam.com/