There are many reasons why Calgary is on the international map. World-class events, unparalleled access to sports and recreation, an entrepreneurial and charitable spirit, the abundance of natural resources; much attracts folks to visit and often remain in this city. It’s a place to raise a family, build a business and have a good time. It has great energy.
The Shaw Charity Classic presented by Suncor embodies all that is great about Calgary – and then some. In its 10th year, the annual golf tournament – the only Canadian stop on the PGA TOUR Champions – not only showcases Alberta’s largest city to the rest of the world, it also brings out the community’s incredible spirit of giving.
The three-round, 54-hole stroke-play tournament, which takes place at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club August 3 to 7 (the traditional late summer date was moved up to mid-summer this year), features some of the world’s greatest names in golf. An estimated 40,000 fans will watch players, including Calgary’s own Stephen Ames, compete for $2.35 million in prizes.
And while the tournament is both a showcase of the city and a premiere event accessible to all, it is its charitable impact that is most notable. Since its inception, the tournament has raised over $76 million for over 233 Alberta children and youth charities.
“It’s grown into something so much bigger than what any of us had ever imagined,” marvels Brad Shaw, executive chair and CEO, Shaw Communications. “Even with all the bumps in the road we’ve had over the last few years, we’ve managed to raise an incredible amount. The impact is undeniable.”
Originally conceptualized by the late Clay Riddell after he was approached by Ames, the initial hope was to cover the considerable tournament costs (including television broadcast on the Golf Channel) with the hope to have something left over for charity. Riddell called upon the philanthropic Patron Group – Allan Markin, Jim Riddell, Keith MacPhail, Guy Turcotte, Gary Peddle, Mike Culbert and Ames – as well as the Shaw family, to become involved.
“My dad started to formulate a vision of what it could look like, and called around and got a few of the other Patrons involved,” explains tournament chairman Jim Riddell. “The initial plan was to backstop the tournament – find some sponsors to support and pay for it. And hopefully generate more than we have in costs to allocate those charitable dollars to kids’ charities. That was exactly what transpired.”
Riddell Sr. approached his friend the late JR Shaw and asked if he would join the small group of like-minded business leaders. “It just rang such a big bell for us, because giving back to the community has always been one of the core values for our family and our company,” recalls Shaw of his father’s initial enthusiasm. “So JR got very excited about it and wanted to make sure it was a success.”
“I don’t think we could have ever asked for a better partner than Shaw as title sponsor,” Riddell reflects. “Not only do they support it financially, but they’ve always thrown their whole organization behind it. They’ve done a lot of additional promotion to raise the visibility of the tournament. They also personally put in charitable dollars.” The Riddell Family Charitable Foundation too contributes one million dollars per year to make it a success.
To Shaw, whose company announced a $1 million donation in May to kick off the tenth anniversary, the sponsorship has been worth it in spades. “We felt that the platform was something that could be very strong, and we’re always looking to have an impact, especially across Alberta,” he says. “The impact is undeniable in Calgary. This is our hometown, our home base, and we wanted to really lean into and make a world class event here. And I think if you ask anyone that’s been around it, whether sponsors, attendees or players, they’ll say it’s an all-star event.”
The inaugural tournament in 2013 raised $2,276,251 for six youth-based charities. Each successive year, both the amount donated and the number of recipient charities has increased. Even in 2020, when the tournament was cancelled due to the pandemic, a whopping $12,572,483 was raised for more than 200 youth-based charities across Alberta.
“It’s easy to put our name on as a sponsor, but it takes the community, the giving, the charities, the commitment to the process and the platform, to come together in such a beautiful way,” Shaw notes with pride. “It just goes to show you what a great community Calgary is.”
“The choice of youth charities was easy, because we knew people would want to get behind them,” Riddell explains. “It’s anywhere from KidSport, to Ronald McDonald House, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and Big Brothers Big Sisters, to name just a few. There are so many now.”
“I always look at the numbers,” Shaw continues. “It’s the 14,000 elementary students provided with bully prevention lessons and life skills. Or the 5,000 children with disabilities that we provide social recreational, self-expression and development programs to. Those are just little tidbits, but you look at it all and it becomes overwhelming.”
In addition to the Shaw family and its company, the Riddell family and the Patron Group, many other donors – large and small – have stepped up over the years. For the past two years Suncor has been a presenting sponsor, the tournament’s main charitable platform, Shaw Birdies for Kids, is presented by AltaLink, and RBC sponsors the Pro-Am events on the Wednesday and Thursday of tournament week.
Tournament week activities kick off with Blakes Women’s Day on August 1, where LPGA Tour player and winner Michelle Wie West will guest star at the networking event for 104 women business and community leaders.
“It’s been great to see AltaLink, Suncor, Blakes and all the other sponsors continue to show up and be a part of it,” Shaw says. “And a credit to the Shaw Charity Classic management team that is out there every day working on the smaller sponsors and making sure we’re doing a good job for everyone overall. But it’s kind of sold itself and I think just a credit to the program that it is.”
In a bid to bring out as many spectators as possible and in homage to the 10-year anniversary, $10 single-day general admission tickets are available for purchase until July 31. Juniors 12 and under are free when accompanied by a ticketed adult. “We try to make it as accessible and easy as possible for people to get there and enjoy the experience,” Riddell explains. “It was very important to my dad that it’s on everybody’s calendar every year, as an event the city could look forward to.”
“We expect the crowds to come out,” Shaw continues. “Not only golf enthusiasts, but the whole family. The entertainment of it, for the players, is great. They don’t get this in many tournaments where the crowds are five to 10 people deep. When they’re coming down the 18th hole with huge crowds going along with the players, it’s exciting for them.”
Riddell concurs: “Having spectators there is what excites the players. It really does create a great experience.”
Indeed, the tournament is one of the best in its class, evidenced by the fact it has won the President’s Award three times (2014, 2015 and 2017) as the top event on the PGA Tour Champions.
The Shaw family’s commitment to the tournament continues beyond Rogers Communications’ proposed acquisition of Shaw Communications. “One of the key parts of the transaction was to ensure that the Shaw Charity Classic did stay alive,” Shaw explains. “Because Rogers was fully committed to Calgary, we extended commitment to the event for up to 10 years.”
He adds that the Shaw Family Foundation will continue to step up in support of the tournament: “Calgary is my hometown, it’s where I walk down the street, it’s where my kids do too. And we want to make sure no matter what, with Shaw Communications or not, we continue to hold our heads up high, support Calgary and put it on the international map.”
Riddell believes his dad would continue to be very proud of what he started: “He never dreamed it would be as successful as it had been in the first few years. I think he’d be super proud of what he’s done, what the whole Shaw team and Patron Group have done. The tournament gets better every year.”
For more information on the Shaw Charity Classic presented by Suncor or to purchase tickets go to shawcharityclassic.com.