LAKEWOOD RANCH -- It was a bipartisan party Friday as golfers teed off at the 15th annual Phil Galvano Golf Classic.
Among the 125 golfers, who came from all over the state, were familiar political names like Alex Diaz De La Portilla, of Miami, the former Republican majority leader of the Florida Senate, and state Rep. Jim Waldman, a Democrat from Coconut Creek.
“It’s not a political tournament, it’s always been about education,” said Bill Galvano, one of the sons of the late golf great Phil Galvano, in whose honor the tournament is played.
The event this year raised about $120,000, $80,000 less than last year, according to figures from tournament officials.
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However, over all the years of its existence, the tournament has raised more than $1.3 million, they said.
Proceeds benefit the School District of Manatee County through the work of the nonprofit Manatee Education Foundation Inc.
The money will be used for grants to teachers for the academic enrichment of public school students, Galvano said.
“It goes to things tax dollars cannot buy,” said Galvano as he sped around the course in a golf cart. “We thought of how to best honor my father, and my family thought education was a clear choice because it affects everything in society.”
The money will be distributed in grants to teachers during an Aug. 17 “Ready For School Rally” at Braden River High School, said Mary Glass, executive director of the foundation.
Teachers ask for items like field trips or supplies, with grants last year averaging about $500 each, she said.
The tournament, which costs between $2,500 and $15,000 per foursome, has many long-time sponsors, such as Stuart Jueong, managing partner and proprietor of the Outback Steakhouse at 4402 Cortez Road, Bradenton.
His company was preparing to serve an al fresco steak dinner to those returning from the links at Legacy Golf Club, where the event was held.
“It’s a great cause,” Jueong said. “We’ve always had good partnership with Bill Galvano. We never say ‘No’ to the Manatee Education Foundation.”
Another devoted sponsor was John Horne, co-owner of the Anna Maria Island Oyster Bar, whose firm provided lunch to the golfers before they went out to play.
Asked why he supported the tournament over so many years, he replied, perhaps too truthfully: “It’s better than working.”
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.