The Panhandle Charitable Open, the signature charity golf tournament in Northwest Florida, is back this Sept. 25-27 for its 13th year, and this one promises to be bigger than ever. With an expanded format, a special party and auction format, and a greater level of community participation, PCO chairman John Peacock is ready to do more good for more people. Few events combine fun and competition with the opportunity to directly impact the community quite like the golf tournament.
The event also offers the opportunity to play alongside business and government leaders and meet someone new, all while having a great time in beautiful early fall weather. A wide array of men and women always get involved, from community notables to the guy next door, from golf veterans to those new to the game. The event was not always so expansive or successful, and the open actually has its roots in devastating tragedy. Several years ago, Peacock’s son John Ryan lost his life in a car accident at the age of 17. Peacock was understandably demoralized, but vowed to make something good out of something terrible.
“When tragedy strikes and you lose a loved one, you have two choices: you can either curl up and emotionally die along with that person, or you can move forward,” said Peacock. “I chose to do the second and help others through the money raised by the open.”
Peacock took an existing format, used by the Marcus Pointe men’s group annual charity tournament, and began work on making it something much bigger. Prior to Peacock’s involvement, the men’s group had raised about $700 for charity. Peacock settled on three primary charities that would benefit from his new tournament: Child Guardians, Inc., which helps abused, neglected or abandoned children through direct funding of children’s needs; the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, an agency dedicated to helping victims of child abuse; and the Council on Aging of West Florida, an advocacy group dedicated to improving the lives of senior citizens.
In its first year, the Panhandle Charitable Open raised $20,000 and it has only grown since then. To date, the tournament has helped raise more than $400,000 for charity, including a record-breaking $95,000 in 2013. The money raised also benefits 19 different charities now, including Arc Gateway, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida, Independence for the Blind, the American Cancer Society and Covenant Hospice, and Peacock is committed to increasing donations to each of those.
“We don’t want to necessarily add more charities, but we do want to increase the amount we give to each,” said Peacock.
The tournament uses a two-day, two-person Best Ball format, allowing each player to play his or her own ball from tee to green. Traditionally, the most preferred tee times are Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. To accommodate the recent surge in interest, however, and to keep rounds close to four hours, Friday morning
and Saturday afternoon times have been added. To play a preferred time, Peacock suggests registering quickly. Last year there were 150 participants, and Peacock expects even more this year. In years past, the open featured a Friday evening party and auction. This year, that is being moved to Thursday evening, Sept. 25, for the
inaugural Fore! Charity Tee-Off Par-Tee.
“Some folks maybe don’t want to do both the tournament and the party, so we’ve separated them a bit more to allow for greater flexibility,” said Peacock. “In the past, we’ve raised between $12,000 and $15,000 at the auction. I hope this new format builds on that.”
The dinner and auction will be at Sanders Beach Corrine Jones Community Center from 6 to 10 pm as music from local band Mass Kunfuzion drifts through the evening oceanside air. There are a variety of sponsor packages available to meet every possible preference and budget, ranging from $75 for dinner only to $6,000 for extensive access and benefits. The open is a huge event each year, and only growing; so much so that Peacock and his dedicated team of volunteers start coordinating each event as early as January.
“Everybody works for free and everyone works so hard,” said Peacock. “It’s great to see it all come together every year.”
Peacock has big dreams for the future of the open. He envisions one day adding multiple courses and maybe even a charity run.
“We could facilitate a lot of different charity events and activities under the Panhandle Charitable Open umbrella,” said Peacock. “We would of course need a lot more manpower, but I believe Pensacola can make it happen.”
The city’s amazing philanthropic spirit is the reason for the event’s success, Peacock believes. From hosting the largest Impact 100 group in the world to having
unprecedented cohesion and community among the various non-profits, the citizens of Pensacola seem always ready to help those in need.
“I’ve never lived anywhere that is as giving as this,” said Peacock. “Escambia County is one of the poorest counties in the state, but we have dedicated people who really give their resources to help build the city and help others. There are a huge number of people like that and I’m inspired by them.”
Peacock was not always the successful philanthropist he is now. Twenty years ago, he was a single father who moved here to start a business and was quickly touched by the community’s professional relationships, dependence on small business, and number of non-profit organizations dedicated to helping people like him.
“Small business is the backbone of America, but non-profits are its heart and soul,” said Peacock. “I certainly benefitted from generosity and help when I arrived here. The Panhandle Charitable Open is just my way of giving back.”
To register for the event, visit pcogolf.org.
Six questions with John Peacock
Who in the community inspires you?
I’m really inspired by Quint Studer, Julian MacQueen, and Buzz Ritchie, just
to name a few. There are so many people here who give freely of themselves.
Sandy Sansing is another. They are always doing all they can for the city and
its residents and businesses.
What would you do if time and money were of no concern?
I think I would become more politically and socially involved. There’s a lot that
can be done on both of those fronts.
When did you move to Pensacola?
I moved here in early 1996 to open an Edward Jones office. My kids were on
the free lunch program and I was a single dad. But the people of Pensacola
really helped me. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without generous
people and helpful government programs.
Where in Pensacola do you believe has the most underutilized
The waterfront in downtown is a great amenity. It’s beautiful. Other cities
would love to have something like that. We need to really realize how great it
is that we have a beautiful waterfront and invest in making it even better.
Things like a boardwalk and greater accessibility would go a long way.
Why do you believe Pensacola is so philanthropic?
Well the city has a history of very charitable folks, and that tends to inspire
others to also be charitable. Obviously having the military here is integral, too:
they tend to be very giving. It’s a nice combination of elements that will hopefully
enable Pensacola to further grow.
How would you change Pensacola if you could?
I would align education with business more and really emphasize workforce
development. I also think that the superintendant should be appointed instead
of elected. Why limit your pool of candidates on something like education? If
someone living somewhere else has some great ideas and can turn things
around and get things done, why not hire him or her to do the job? I would better
consolidate county and city government, as well.