One Swing at a Time


Article by Kristen Larson

Photography by Provided

There is an old Chinese proverb that states, “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people,” the message behind the adage implies the long-term importance of education. Not just a place of rote attendance, but a society’s desire for a population that values dedication, discipline, and lifelong learners.

Here in Idaho, there’s a similar vein of thought when creating educational opportunities through philanthropic efforts. Bank of Idaho President Jeff Newgard’s vision of meeting Idaho’s educational needs prompted a unique opportunity under the mantle of sports, with the creation of a golf tournament aptly named, “Swing for the Green”.

Access to education and opening financial opportunities is a sentiment that Newgard himself feels incredibly passionate about. “I have a background that includes two years of community college. I learned that community college students are not always traditional students. Sometimes people are reentering and I found that great to talk with people that already had careers. And work experience.”

And Newgard’s experience rings true with statistics. The average age of a community student is 28, with many students identifying as full-time workers who are often enrolled in full-time studies. Community colleges often provide access that traditional schools lack like opportunities for single-parents and classes that conform to full-time working schedules1. And with Idaho’s college-educated population remaining among the lowest in the nation, the need for opening more opportunities is one that drives Newgard’s passion forward. Though the tournament has grown increasingly each year, he hasn’t forgotten the bigger picture.

Newgard adds, “Often College of Eastern Idaho students will send me cards thanking me and the bank for our involvement and for their scholarship. One of the most touching ones was just simply a picture of this young man and his family but he said, ‘This is me smiling with my family because I got accepted and now attending College of Eastern Idaho and the only way I could do it was through the scholarship’.”Says Newgard, “The community college in Idaho Falls was being put before the voters and I saw that there could potentially be a new college of eastern Idaho, so I thought it would be a great idea if we could start an endowment for scholarships for the students.”

Left: College of Eastern Idaho, Idaho Falls. Right: Idaho State University, Pocatello

Started back in 2017, Newgard envisioned not just a community event but one that could sow seeds of future opportunities as well as tap into the community with something fun and fruitful.

Newgard explains, “The idea was let’s have the most premiere tournament to support these students and the scholarships.”

And how did the tournament get off and running? It took a bit of planning and finding the perfect partnership. Says Newgard, “We worked with a company out of Phoenix (Backswing Events) that had three LPGA players and they helped us go around from group to group, to play with the groups, one camped out at a hole, and just made for a really fun event. We had a dinner before with an inspirational speaker and it was a great success that first year.”

Not only did this maiden venture raise around twelve-thousand dollars (net), it ignited a certain excitement for building scholarship funds and involving the community with potential to grow. And like most things that become readily successful, there is always the need to look for ways to expand or improve upon. And this was duly demonstrated by last year’s tournament netting fifty-thousand dollars, with year to date funding over $100,000 for College of Eastern Idaho students. The growing numbers indicate not only its imminent success but potential for expanding educational opportunities for students all over the state of Idaho. This includes students here in the Treasure Valley, notably at the College of Western Idaho. Circling back to Newgard’s vision, expansion was always a part of that plan.

Newgard further explains this vision, “We decided in Pocatello and Boise, we would expand into these markets. So this year (2022) we’re going to have a similar event to support Idaho State University students in Pocatello and in Boise we’re going to be at Banbury and support the College of Western Idaho. And the reason that we love community college, is that it provides access for education. And opens those doors.”

The tournament is really two-fold with its proceeds and impact as the funds not only help potential students but also provides opportunities for the LPGA players in the tournament. “The company (Backswing Events) is a woman-owned company (and provides) up and coming tournament players an ability to pay for their own entry fees. And support their own career. As they try to get into the LPGA.”

Left: College of Western Idaho, Nampa. Right: BanBury Golf Course, Eagle

And though investing in both education and opportunities for future careers is tantamount to the tournament’s goals and its growing success, the real victory begins with school. And Newgard knows intimately the importance of those first steps. His own educational background includes not only the two-year community college experience, one which led to a bachelor’s degree, but also an MBA and eventually a graduate school in Banking in Colorado.

“[College] changes lives. It changes their whole future to give them access to education. And it doesn’t have to be a bachelor’s degree it could be a certification in cybersecurity or welding. These are great jobs and it is life-changing for them and their families – and their future.”

The first event will take place June 16 and June 17, 2022, at the Idaho Falls Country Club, benefiting College of Eastern Idaho; followed by a Pocatello tournament August 8, at Riverside Golf Course, benefiting Idaho State University; and a third event in Treasure Valley September 15 and September 16, at the Banbury Golf Club, benefiting College of Western Idaho.

The 25-team tournaments, will feature tournament variations tailored to their location, featuring LPGA professionals, a derby shootout, shopping and customized player swag, a pre-tournament party, signature cocktails, live entertainment and auction. 

For more information about purchasing tickets or to join the tournament, go to: bankofidaho.com/s4g

1 https://www.readspeaker.com/blog/10-facts-about-community-college-students/

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