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Henninger turns attention to helping charities

by: Courtesy of Brian Henninger, Professional golfer Brian Henninger, a long-time member of West Linn’s Oregon Golf Club, established the Brian Henninger Foundation in 1999. Since that time, the organization has raised nearly half a million dollars and raised $117,000 last year alone at the annual Henninger’s Fireside Chat held at Bandon Dunes.

Mention the name Brian Henninger and everyone immediately thinks about his achievements on the PGA Tour. In time, though, Henninger could become better known for his charitable activities.

During his 14-year PGA career, Henninger has participated in his share of charitable events and he loved seeing the good things that came from the money that was raised. But he wanted to be more than a participant, so the longtime pro created the Brian Henninger Foundation in 1999.

Since its inception, the organization has doled out more than $425,000 to local charities. Last year alone, the foundation handed out $117,000.

All of that came from Henninger's Fireside Chat, an annual event that is held each fall at Bandon Dunes, Oregon's most prestigious and most picturesque golf course.

Last fall, the three-day event featured a cozy gathering of six pro players, two high-profile instructors and 32 amateur players.

It's an incredible chance for local golfers to rub shoulders with a group of PGA players who they ordinarily wouldn't have the chance to meet.

'I had been to enough charitable functions that I thought there was a way for me to create my own event,' Henninger said shortly after the most recent contributions were handed out.

'I was in a position where I thought I could convince people to come hang with me for a weekend. And then I can do my part in philanthropy,' Henninger added.

In addition to spending a weekend with Henninger last fall, participants also were joined by PGA pros Paul Goydos, Brandel Chamblee, Glen Day, Jim Carter and Chris Smith.

Plus, Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, the game's fastest-rising and most sought after instructors, were on hand as well.

Previous chats included players like Peter Jacobsen, Kirk Triplett, Scott McCarron and Scott Simpson. So, it's no wonder that local amateurs will be willing to fork over close to $8,000 this year to be part of the next event.

'It's intimate, concentrated, no outside interference and no big sponsorship person telling me how to do it,' Henninger said. 'And I make it unique enough for a lot of these people to keep coming back.'

For the participants, getting to spend quality time with some well-known players or instructors is easily worth the price of admission. For Henninger, the Bandon Dunes event gives him a chance to fulfil one of his dreams, which is to help out local charities.

'We've got a lot of money to give away when it's all over and that's what really matters,' Henninger said. 'We're really proud of this thing.'

The media typically doesn't show much interest in charity golfing events, but Henninger has put together an event that probably would get some coverage because of its unique nature. However, it seems to work better without the media's involvement.

'I don't necessarily want it publicized,' Henninger said. 'But I think the charity (portion) deserves publicity.'

Now that the organization is getting some publicity, Henninger is quick to give his board of directors a lot of credit for their involvement. While Henninger signs up the players and puts together much of the golf event, the board has the difficult task of deciding where all of the funds will go once the expenses have been covered. The driving force behind the board is Ed O'Mara, who also serves as Henninger's personal financial advisor.

'Ed is the captain of the ship. He does all of the detail stuff (for the charity event),' Henninger said. 'He gets it all going together perfectly.'

Henninger, who is a long-time member of the Oregon Golf Club in West Linn, would like to give even more money away each year. To do that, though, he would either have to increase the size of the Fireside Chat event, or get involved with another event of some kind.

But that would require Henninger to do even more fundraising than he already does, and asking people for money is not one of his favorite endeavors.

'I'll ask them for money one time (for the Fireside Chat). After that I'm done,' Henninger joked. 'I'd love to make more money (for the charities) … But I can't ask for one more penny … That's why it's been good to have (the board) because they've been willing to do some of that stuff.'

It's interesting to see the list of charities that the Henninger Foundation has given money to in the past. Virtually all of the donations benefit kids in some manner. The list includes groups like the Make-A-Wish Founation, the Childrens' Miracle Network, the Boys and Girls Club, Oregon Outdoor School, Children's Cancer Association, Fore Adoption Foundation, Special Olympics, the First Tee Program, Evans Scholarship Foundation, Crest Center for Environmental Learning, the Boys and Girls Aid Society and San Pasqual School.

Ideally, Henninger would like to carry his endeavors even further by developing a golf instructional facility or by purchasing a nearby golf course, and then make the fees affordable for everyone. But the main focus would be for kids. Henninger sees a real need for something like that in the area. He's worried that golf is becoming so expensive that eventually only the affluent could afford to play.

So, don't be surprised if Henninger and his board do something to help fix that problem over the next few years.