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Players donate over $500,000 to relief funds

The Ryder Cup matches have been postponed, but not the charity.

U.S. captain Curtis Strange said Tuesday his team will donate $520,000 to the National Disaster Relief Fund, while the PGA of America said it would give $500,000.

The pledges were announced during the ``Tribute of America'' at Fiesta Texas theme park, a patriotic rally that featured three Ryder Cup players, nearly a few tears and a videotaped message from President Bush.

Bush commended the PGA Tour for moving forward by resuming its tournaments, and had a special message for Strange.

``I'm sorry we missed our dinner last week, but the invitation still stands,'' he said.

The U.S. team was supposed to have dinner with the Bush before leaving for England to play the Ryder Cup, which was scheduled to begin Friday.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks caused the PGA of America to postpone the matches until next year at The Belfry, with the same captains and 12-man teams. Strange has said his team will wear the same clothing indicating 2001 on the logos to remember why the Ryder Cup was postponed.

``We are and always will continue to be the 2001 team,'' Strange said, his voice choking with emotion as the Ryder Cup trophy sat below him.

David Toms and Hal Sutton were the only U.S. Ryder Cup players to enter this week's Texas Open, and were the only teammates to attend the ceremony. Some players, such as Paul Azinger, said they thought it would be disrespectful to the Texas Open to come to San Antonio without staying to play in the tournament.

Several other players in the Texas Open attended.

While the theme of the rally was unity, the Ryder Cup donation was made possible by a rift two years ago when U.S. players wanted a voice in how the PGA of America distributed its profits from the matches.

The PGA of America, which made $23 million from the '99 Ryder Cup, decided to give players and the captain $100,000 for the charity of their choice, plus $100,000 for their colleges to support a PGA initiative to grow the game.

Strange and his 12 players earmarked $20,000 each for the relief fund, and the PGA of America matched the $260,000. The PGA of America also gave $500,000 on its own, bringing the total donation to $1.2 million.

Jesper Parnevik of Sweden, a regular on the PGA Tour with a home in south Florida and a member of the European Ryder Cup team, also is playing and spoke at the tribute.

Parnevik was in New York when the two hijacked airliners struck the World Trade Center and said he was still shocked by what he saw.

``It was a very surreal experience,'' he said. ``I still can't believe it today. But the thing that hit me the most emotionally was how the firefighters, policemen and the whole city of New York came together like nothing I've ever seen before.''

Sutton, a member of the PGA Tour policy board, said the tour already has given $70 million to local charities at its tournament sites this year, and two weeks ago gave $2 million to the relief efforts after canceling its tournaments that week.

He also said tournaments have donated $350,000 to relief funds, and players have given $400,000 on their own.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said the National Golf Course Owners Association has set aside the weekend of Oct. 19-21 by giving a percentage of green fees from thousands of courses to relief efforts. It is expected to raise from $2 million to $4 million.

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