Southern Company has a rich history with the game of golf that dates back more than a century. Southern Company has served as the Official Energy Company of the PGA TOUR since 1999 and has supported the TOUR Championship and presented the Payne Stewart Award for nearly 20 years.
Southern Company’s history with golf dates as far back as 1904 when Henry Atkinson, who formed the Georgia Railway and Electric Company, which is now known as Georgia Power, donated 187 acres of land for the construction of the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Today, East Lake Golf Club is most well-known as being home of the TOUR Championship, the season-ending tournament where the top 30 players compete for the coveted FedEx Cup. This past September, Tiger Woods made headlines across the sporting world when he won the 2018 TOUR Championship tournament.
What you may not know is East Lake is the oldest golf course in Atlanta and was the home course of legendary golfer and Atlanta native, Bobby Jones. Jones served on Southern Company’s board of directors from 1948 through 1971, the longest tenure for any board member in company history.
Long before Woods, there were African-American professional golfers, like Calvin Peete, Pete Brown, Charlie Sifford and Lee Elder walking the golf course.
Before Woods, Peete was the most successful African-American golfer on the PGA TOUR and made history by winning 12 major tournaments between 1979 and 1986.
Today, Southern Company is a proud supporter of The Calvin Peete Foundation, which “acknowledges the talent, futures and desires of youth who want to explore the opportunity to participate in the game of golf and funds initiatives for young golfers and partner organizations.” Southern Company also has supported the Bill Dickey Scholarship Association, which promotes minority junior programs through its relationship with the National Minority Junior Golf Scholarship Association.
Theodore “Ted” Rhodes of Nashville was acknowledged as the first African-American professional golfer when he played in the 1948 U.S. Open. Rhodes, along with fellow golfer Bill Spiller, advocated heavily for the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) to remove its “Caucasian-only clause,” and in 1961 the PGA eliminated the policy from its bylaws.
Rhodes had an enormous impact on the game of golf and paved the way for other African-Americans to have a future playing professionally. In 1952, Southern Company created an advertisement featuring Rhodes to honor his monumental achievement and contribution to the sport and to civil rights.
Today, Southern Company is paying tribute to these African-American golfers that have laid the foundation for equal opportunities by supporting programs that will teach future generations to accomplish great things, both on the course and off. Southern Company’s partnership with The First Tee’s National School Program provides educational opportunities to elementary students that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices by teaching them to play golf. Since the partnership began in 2013, Southern Company has helped The First Tee reach 523,000 students annually in 1,046 schools throughout 130 communities within the Southern Company service area.
Additionally, by supporting the TOUR Championship, Southern Company contributes to local non-profit organizations in the Atlanta community. Following the 2018 TOUR Championship, a record $3 million was contributed to the East Lake Foundation, the Grove Park Foundation, Purpose Built Schools Atlanta and The First Tee of Atlanta.
Over nearly twenty years of partnership, the TOUR Championship has invested more than $30 million into Atlanta’s East Lake community. During the 1990s, East Lake could only be described as down-and-out, with crime rates 18 times the national average. Today, the story could not be any more different.
Through our support of golf, we are living Our Value of Total Commitment. Southern Company is committed to the success of our employees, our customers, our shareholders and our communities. We fully embrace, respect, and value our differences and diversity.