Now in its 11th year, Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops offers area golfers a day on the golf course to work on their game while helping American military veterans. But this local fundraising tournament in Peoria, IL is about much more than golf: it’s about giving back to those who have given so much to us.
Founded in 2009 by event coordinators Dr. Frank Benningfield and Steve Carver, the Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops event is now organized by Bill Kraft, Jeff Kohlbus along with an executive committee of seven members. What makes this tournament unique is the event is played on two courses approximately four miles apart and has both a morning and afternoon session.
Every August, the organization hosts its annual Golf Classic at the Mt. Hawley Country Club and Country Club of Peoria for a day of fun, camaraderie and remembrance. With exclusive access to the green in the morning, military veterans are invited to share their stories with their foursome while enjoying a round of golf. In last summer’s event, 240 military personnel, past and present, golfed in morning free with all expenses paid for by event sponsors, including the title sponsor, Zanfel Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Wash.
In the afternoon, high school JROTC teams present the colors, a soloist sings the national anthem saluting our fallen heroes, local families memorialize lost loved ones and the public is offered a chance to personally thank the servicemen and women. Local service club members volunteer as pin holders at both the morning and afternoon sessions. During the afternoon session, another 240 players including sponsors fill up two different golf courses, Mt Hawley Country Club and the Country Club of Peoria. Despite a heat advisory, there was a great turnout and golfers took to the links for a good cause. The evening festivities host over 700 people.
Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops saves the serious golfing for the serious tournaments and they have fun at this event! American Anthem Vodka set up tables at each course and provided samples of their products in Bloody Mary’s and screwdrivers. Local restaurants, including Buffalo Wild Wings and Qdoba set up food stations during the rounds and gave away their products. Every Par-3 on both courses had a hole in one contest featuring either cash or a car and Dixon Golf sponsored a Par-3 Contest where players could win golf balls and receive certificates worth up to $150 in products.
When asked what inspires him to continue leading this event for our military and veteran organizations, Bill Kraft answered “I continue to serve as event coordinator because I believe it is proper to honor and remember those who have served and are currently serving in our Armed Forces. I enjoy the challenges of bringing together 480 golfers in one day at two different courses and the gratitude our veterans show us for putting on this event in Peoria.”
“The National Office of Tee It Up for the Troops and its staff, is a tremendous resource for us and all of the affiliated events throughout the country and we would like to thank them for the support they provide,” Bill added.
Bill has been an instrumental part of the Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops tournament for 10 years. He was asked to oversee the overflow of participants at the first event in 2009 when a second course was added to accommodate the response from the community. He was offered a position on the executive committee the following year and since just keeps looking forward to offering a unique event aimed at honoring our veterans who have served our country to insure the freedoms enjoyed in the United States.
To date, Central Illinois Tee It Up for the Troops has raised nearly $1,000,000 to benefit both national and local organizations committed to serving veterans and their families. The 2018 event alone brought in $50,000. In the Peoria area, proceeds benefit the Goodwill’s Gen. W.A. Downing Shelter for Homeless Vets, South Side Office of Concern Veterans Haven (a second local shelter for homeless veterans) and Fuller Center of Central Illinois (dedicated to helping military veteran homeowners make repairs on their homes). The group also donates a portion of funds to the national Tee It Up for the Troops organization where Disabled Sports USA, Fisher House, Hope for the Warriors, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Warrior Canine Connection among other veteran service organizations receive proceeds.
This year’s golf classic is set to take place on August 26, 2019. For more information visit: www.teeitupforthetroopsil.org or www.teeitupforthetroops.com