Every time Jim Furyk makes a birdie or eagle this year, he’s going to raise money for 170 children’s hospitals across North America thanks to Miracle Birdies, a new fund-raising program.
Can Furyk, who made a clutch putt worth $10 million last fall to win the FedEx Cup title, handle this kind of incredible pressure? The question made Furyk laugh.
“I think I can handle it, we’ll see,” he said. “If I don’t make any birdies at the Heritage, we’ll know there’s a problem.”
Furyk is partnering with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals for the fund-raiser. They hope members of the public—like you—will pledge money for every birdie Furyk makes, starting with next week’s Heritage Classic at Harbour Town. Pledges can be as small as ten cents per birdie or as big as $20—or bigger, there’s no maximum pledge, obviously. You can sign up to pledge support for Furyk at MiracleBirdies.com. The amounts will be determined by how many birdies Furyk makes from the Heritage until the season-ending tournament, the Children's Miracle Network Classic at DisneyWorld.
“It’s funny, I’ve been asked that quite a few times about whether there will be pressure,” Furyk said. “I look at it more as an opportunity. I think it will be fun. Whether there are 100 or 2,000 pledges, it’s a positive. One of my partners, RBC, is going to run a big campaign around the PGA Championship this year. I’m proud to be part of all this.”
The money raised by people who make pledges will go to their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.
“What I like so much is that the money will stay in your local area,” Furyk said. “If you live in Orlando, for example, it would go to the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital. It’s easy to get people involved when they see the money is going to stay in their own community.”
Since 1983, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals have raised more than $4 billion, used for research and training, equipment and uncompensated care in support of children with health issues.
Furyk was already involved in fund-raising for children. He and his wife have supported Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Florida near their home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Getting into this new program was an easy choice for him.
“We’ve met quite a few kids,” Furyk said. “The hospital here has like a pediatric hospital for kids whose prognosis is not that great—it’s for their families and siblings. They’re building a new wing now so they can have more rooms where parents can sleep in the rooms and be with their sick children. A lot of these kids, it’s tough.
“Tabitha runs a wonderful program around the Players Championship week. Instead of 'These Guys Can Play,' it’s 'These Kids Can Play.' We have a lot of players come out—Ben Crane and Justin Leonard have really helped. Being around the kids and being in that wing and seeing what the doctors and nurses do on a daily basis, there are a lot of inspiring individual stories. The whole thing makes you want to be a part of it.”
As a father of two, Furyk naturally has a greater interest in children’s healthcare. Furyk, 40, is a Pennsylvania native and still an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but he’s found a home in northeast Florida. “It really hits home when you start raising your own family,” he said. “I’ve lived here in Jacksonville and really felt like I became more a part of the community when we started having children and realized this was where we wanted to raise them. Our kids were born here at the Baptist Medical Center.”
Jim and Tabitha have two children—an 8-year-old daughter, Caleigh, and a 7-year-old son, Tanner. (Two years ago, the 6-year-old Caleigh filed a report on her dad playing in the Players Championship for Golf.com.)
Furyk always been good with kids, and that’s how he met his wife-to-be years ago.
“She was an education major and getting into teaching and I was playing golf with some kids at Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament,” Furyk said. “She loved the way I interacted with the kids and that was my in to say hello and get to meet her.”
And since then? “Well,” he said with a chuckle, “it’s worked out pretty well.” (Photo: Matt Slocum/AP)