As we continue to take on the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are sharing stories about how they are working their way through it.
One of more interesting stories I have heard is that of my friend, PGA Tour veteran Ted Purdy.
Late last year, Purdy was considering buying a golf course in his hometown of Phoenix. He engaged in a discussion with his father and a Phoenix commercial real estate executive named Eric Sheldahl about becoming investors.
They had a better idea.
Three years ago, Sheldahl and Purdy’s father, Jim, co-founded the Midwest Food Bank of Arizona. The executive director left late last year, and so the potential golf course investors asked Purdy to help out for a while.
Purdy, now 47 and counting the days until he is eligible for PGA Tour Champions, is a self-admitted golf junkie. He was a talented junior player who became a standout at the University of Arizona. He was rookie of the year on the Asian Tour in 1997, and graduated to the PGA Tour in 1999. He held his tour card through 2012, making 149 cuts and winning the 2005 Byron Nelson Championship. He made enough money playing golf that he didn’t have to worry about money.
He has been a bit adrift since losing his card, playing sporadically on the Web.com Tour, the Gateway Tour and PGA Tour Latinoamérica. In 2013 and 2014 he reached the final stage of qualifying for what is now called the Korn Ferry Tour, but did not come away with PGA Tour access. He took a look at coaching golf at his alma mater, and later turned his attention to buying a golf course.
He wasn’t thrilled with the idea of working at a food bank, saying that he went “kicking and screaming.” But the rush he got after Day 1 was something he had not experienced before.
The mission of the food bank, according to its website, “is to share the love of Christ by alleviating hunger and malnutrition locally and throughout the world and providing disaster relief; all without discrimination.” It strives “to provide industry-leading food relief to those in need while feeding them spiritually.”
The business of the food bank is to collect food from manufactures and to distribute it to churches, prisons, health agencies and other entities that get it in the hands of those who need it. The Midwest Food Bank of Arizona supports 300 nonprofit organizations. It is noble work, and it has touched Purdy in a way he never anticipated.
One example is what he calls “Glorious Saturdays.” On one Saturday each month, he and members of his team drive to nearby Tucson and spend 10 hours donating food to the needy. Cars, trucks and vans pull up there, and wind up getting loaded with food, milk, and water.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the demand for food in the area. But supply has gone down. Purdy and his team have had to get creative.
“I never really served. It’s amazing how powerful service to others is.”
It turns out that the city of Yuma, Ariz., lays claim to the title of “lettuce capital of the world.” At harvest season, with restaurants shut down, the crop might've been headed for destruction. But with assistance from the state, Purdy and his group connected with the National Guard to load 10 semi-trucks with lettuce. He estimates it came to $500,000 worth of produce the food bank was able to distribute.
In May, Purdy’s team partnered with a group called Helping Hands to help the Navajo Nation. As of the middle of that month, Navajo people there had the highest COVID-19 infection rate, per capita, in the United States. Once again working with the National Guard, Purdy was part of the effort that saw a fleet of trucks driving to the Navajo Nation to dispense canned food and bottled water, as well as milk, diapers, paper products and produce.
Another way to describe this is “God’s work,” and it has touched Purdy in a way he never anticipated. He acknowledges that much in golf came easy to him, and that he was “entitled.” Educated by Jesuits in high school, he was familiar with the concept of service to others.
“I never really served,” he told me by phone last week. “It’s amazing how powerful service to others is.”
A life transformed.
Top: Ted Purdy, left, with Navajo Nation president Jonathan Nez