Tournament chairmen Bob Edwards and Bob Lewis were honored with the American Junior Golf Association’s Digger Smith Award at a special dinner presentation at The Woodlands Country Club on June 22.
Presented annually since 1991, the J.R. “Digger” Smith Award is given to supporters devoted to the AJGA mission and purpose of developing young men and women through competitive junior golf. The award is named for Chairman of the Board J.R. “Digger” Smith, who has dedicated himself to the AJGA and to junior golf for more than three decades.
The Digger Smith Award is the 11th honor earned by the Insperity Invitational / Patrick Reed AJGA Junior Championship since 2011. Past awards include three years of top fundraising (2016-2018), five years of top charitable donations (2014-2018), 2014 and 2016 Open Tournament of the Year honors, and the 2013 Volunteer Award.
“The bottom line is the community here loves to give back to golf and giving back to a program like the AJGA is extremely satisfying,” Edwards said. “We always felt if we could get the community behind this event, we’d have success. Over the years, we’ve had a great event with wonderful players and parents, and we are fortunate to have dedicated sponsors and volunteers. It blew us away to be considered and selected for the Digger Smith Award.”
Over the past 10 years, Edwards and Lewis have helped set the bar for fundraising and charitable giving. In that time, nearly $750,000 was donated to charity through the Insperity Invitational / Patrick Reed AJGA Junior Championship event. From the total sum, $561,000 was allocated to the AJGA’s Achieving Competitive Excellence (ACE) Grant program and nearly $200,000 was donated back to The Woodlands-based charities.
“The way we have responded to the need of the ACE Grant… to be able, over the past several years, to raise so much money and funnel it to the ACE Grant is inspirational,” Lewis said. “To be recognized for our passion is really emotional. It means a lot to us."
“We’re very proud of the reputation our tournament has grown. Our passion is to help local kids and juniors on the way up. It’s phenomenal that our tournament has tremendous support from two title partners in Patrick Reed and the Insperity Invitational. The rest of the money we’ve donated has come from our club membership and community responding to the need. In these times, it reflects the passion of the message.”
The AJGA’s ACE Grant began as a response to create more inclusion in golf – to provide talented junior golfers with the financial means to compete nationally without barriers of travel, entry fees and membership. Since 2003, ACE Grant alumni have turned $4.3 million in reimbursements into $16.3 million in college scholarships.
Since 2011, Houston-area ACE Grant recipients received more than $260,000 in funding to play in events. These opportunities translated into college careers at Pepperdine, Houston Baptist, Stephen F. Austin State, Prairie View A&M, Hampton and Sam Houston State. Those former juniors are now college students, college graduates, Korn Ferry and Symetra Tour players, an attorney and a nurse.
“Being from the Houston area, it means so much to me to get out to play golf,” said Madison DeBruin, who received the ACE Grant endowed by tournament host Patrick Reed. “I love the competition. Playing college golf is a dream of mine and I wouldn’t be able to pursue it without the AJGA and the ACE Grant.”
The Insperity Invitational / Patrick Reed AJGA Junior Championship has deep roots.
“The Bobs,” as they are affectionately known in The Woodlands, helped revive a new summer AJGA event in 2011 after a previous longstanding Easter tradition 1985-1999 and 2004-2007. Edwards initially served as tournament chair while Lewis managed volunteers until 2013 when they teamed up to head the event.
That same year, the duo along with former Woodlands Director of Golf Jim Dickson, met with AJGA alum and PGA TOUR star Patrick Reed. After Team Reed’s support was solidified, a partnership was formed with the Champions Tour’s Insperity Invitational, headquartered at The Woodlands Country Club, in 2014. Both financial gifts go, in full, to support charity efforts in the local community and through the ACE Grant. All AJGA tournament expenses are subsidized through fundraising efforts led by Edwards and Lewis with The Woodlands committee, membership and community.
Edwards and Lewis have also raised philanthropic success for other events by donating more than $100,000 to charity in a single year. Since 2011, the Insperity Invitational / Patrick Reed AJGA Junior Championship raised more than $1.1 million+ through corporate sponsorship and Junior-Am Fundraising.
Bob Edwards and Bob Lewis set the bar for community involvement: the number of volunteers here, the money raised for charity. They set standards others are trying to reach. They wrapped their arms around The Woodlands community, which has always been a great supporter of junior golf and the AJGA and taken it to new heights.
More than $7,000 is annually raised through the volunteer program. In a typical year, more than 130 individuals fill roles with pace of play, live scoring, and hospitality along with serving as walking scorers, spotters, and driving range name attendants. Volunteers donate to the event through time and financial contributions.
“When I worked with Bob Edwards and Bob Lewis, I was blown away,” said Andrew Yeast, current World Golf Foundation staffer and former AJGA tournament director. “They are so passionate about the ACE Grant and junior golf, and they support the AJGA out of the kindness of their hearts. They don’t volunteer to see their name in the paper or to get recognition. They are truly one-of-a-kind people.”
In total, 15 of 18 Insperity Invitational / Patrick Reed AJGA Junior Championship champions are Texans including 2015 & 2016 Rolex Junior Player of the Year Noah Goodwin (2015) and TCU graduate Brooke McDougald of The Woodlands (2013).
Since 2011: juniors representing 100+ Texas cities, 18 other states and 20 countries competed. More than 342 juniors played college golf including Texan Cheyenne Knight who finished runner-up in 2012.
“Being able to play in this AJGA tournament through my junior golf career was really special to me,” said Cheyenne Knight. “Being from The Woodlands, I got to test my skills against the best junior golfers in the world on some of the toughest golf courses. Thanks to you, I got to pursue my college golf career at Alabama and the LPGA TOUR. Thank you so much for supporting junior golf and the ACE Grant … and helping junior golfers pursue their dreams like I did.”
On June 25, Brent Wulf will take over for Bob Edwards, who will step down as tournament chair. Edwards will remain involved with the committee’s work.
Since 1991, nine total Digger Smith recipients are from Texas, including three honors for The Woodlands area events, specifically:
- 2020 – Bob Edwards and Bob Lewis, Insperity Invitational / Patrick Reed AJGA Junior Championship
- 2014 – Joe Quirk, AJGA Board
- 2013 – Chris Dernick and Brett Snortland, AJGA Boys Championship at Carlton Woods
- 2003 – Mary Carriker, Texas San Antonio Shootout
- 1996 – University of Texas Golf Coach George Hannon
- 1995 – Don Snortland, TaylorMade Woodlands Classic
- 1994 – Wayne Moore, Todd Moore Memorial Junior