The Arnie Award
December 06, 2019

Golfers Who Give Back: Jordan Spieth learned the joy of giving early on

Jordan Spieth was just 21 years old when he and his family started the Jordan Spieth Foundation in 2014. Though that seems like an early start, it was a long time coming for the Dallas native, who had spent much of his life with daily reminders that there are others who are less fortunate. “It felt like it was something that was inevitable,” Spieth says of the foundation, inspired by his younger sister, Ellie, who was born with a neurological disorder. Long before he started the foundation, Spieth, while in high school, was giving back by serving as a volunteer at Ellie’s school.

Helping youth with special needs is one of the philanthropic areas on which the foundation concentrates. The others are junior golf, military families and pediatric cancer. At 26, Spieth has plenty of time to continue to give back. “I’m excited about the possibilities ahead of me, both on and off the course,” he says. “It all goes hand in hand.”

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How have your charity efforts changed you?

Recognizing how many kinds of people are in need. There are a lot of less-fortunate people in a lot of different walks of life, and for very different reasons. It’s been a cool experience to use my platform as a golfer, and then the foundation, trying to make life better for people. It wasn’t something that I thought that I’d do so early in my career, but it’s something that’s always been in my mind with having my little sister with special needs. It’s been an incredible five years of growing and working with dozens of organizations across our four platforms.

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Where has your foundation made the most impact so far?

I think that’s changed. Three years ago, I’d have said somewhere in special needs. Then the next year there were bigger opportunities on the military side. And then last year with pediatric cancer, and getting involved at the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, that was the most impactful. So, it’s changed from year to year, and I hope that continues.

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What’s the most charitable thing anyone has ever done for you, and how did that affect you?

I would say when I earned financial aid toward Jesuit [Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas]. Without those who donate to the school, it would’ve been a lot more difficult for me to be able to have that Jesuit experience. Not only was it just a great high school experience, but it taught me the lessons of giving. By the time you graduate, you learn how to be a man for others. The help that I received to be able to get through Jesuit set me up on a course and life and made me who I am. I mean, you go in as a 14-year-old, and you leave as an 18-year-old. There’s a lot that happens in that time frame. I was shaped by that school.

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Is there a person you have tried to emulate when it comes to giving back?

Ours is very personal to our family, but I would say that I’ve been impacted by, one, the PGA Tour charitable giving. I saw early on all the different military organizations that the tour is involved in. That inspired me to want the military to be one of the pillars of our foundation. Two, the tour’s involvement with St. Jude’s. After winning the FedEx Cup, I was with the FedEx people for a visit to St. Jude, and it was one of those experiences that left an impact on me. The players on tour are very involved in giving—you realize this is something these guys just do, and it’s really cool to see. And then seeing the impact with the PGA Tour as a whole being an organization that’s into giving, you have this platform to generate a lot of positive things. You understand that this is a responsibility.

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Is there one anecdote you can relate that has hit home with you as far as how you might have made a difference to someone?

Something happens almost monthly. Even just yesterday [in Japan, during the first round of the Zozo Championship], there was a guy who was working as a volunteer around our group, and he was thanking me during the middle of the round. He told me he was there with a couple of his military buddies through our foundation. I guess they sent an email and asked for tickets, and we were able to respond to that. It was really cool to hear that we made an impact.

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Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to get involved in charitable work?

I’ve mentioned this to our board at every single meeting. It’s been my stance from day one that I would rather not even tell anybody and just go do the things that we want to do. I don’t want publicity. The reason for doing it is to help people. It’s about them, and not you. There’s nothing more rewarding than to see that you’re actually making a difference. So, first and foremost, you should be asking yourself, Why am I doing this? Who needs this help? Just be passionate and involved in it and be selfless, which is not very difficult to do, especially if you have more than enough.

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What are your long-term goals?

We aren’t at the point where we have the answer to that. There are things we want to do. There’s a long-term strategy of potentially building a community or some homes in the special-needs space that we’re saving up for and certainly have on our minds. And I don’t know if that’s a five-year or 15-year plan. Hopefully we’ll be making an impact on a lot of lives along the way in the areas we’ve designated.


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