Mass Open winner donates $15K check to marathon victims

Evan Harmeling

Evan Harmeling

Evan Harmeling played a course that overlooks Boston on April 13, 2013, but had no idea what was happening in the city that day.

Players from the group in front of Harmeling began to wave their hands and shout — he thought he had hit into them the hole before. Harmeling soon found out that they were trying to tell him about the Boston Marathon bombings.

“It was really a scary, strange feeling playing golf and seeing people starting to scream and wave their hands in front of us,” Harmeling said. “We went up and they told us someone’s bombing us. We were like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’ ”

With family in Boston, the attack that left three dead and more than 200 injured was personal for Harmeling.

He could not get in contact with his sister Rachel, who had attended a Red Sox game earlier that day, or his sister Ashley, who lived just one block from the site of the bombings.

“It was horrible," Rachel Harmeling said. "The streets were flooded with people, and I had no phone service.”

All of Evan Harmeling’s friends and family members were safe. But the feeling stayed with him.

Two months later, as Harmeling prepared for the final day of play at the 2013 Massachusetts Open Championship, he made the decision to give back.

Harmeling went on to win the Mass Open, beating his friend and part-time roommate Chris Fitzpatrick in a three-hole aggregate playoff to take the victory — and $15,000 in prize money.

But Harmeling decided not to spend the earnings from his first professional win on himself. He announced that the $15,000 would be donated to The One Fund Boston, which was established to help victims of the marathon bombings.

“I made the decision the night before (the win). Obviously, the bombings were pretty awful,” Harmeling said. “I wanted to give back. Being from the area, and it happening just a few months ago, it felt like the right thing to do.”

Inspired by PGA Tour regular James Driscoll and “Birdies for Boston,” a stretch of play during which Driscoll donated $1,000 to The One Fund Boston for every birdie he recorded, Harmeling decided to do his part.

“It goes without saying that it’s an amazing gesture and it speaks to the kind of person that Evan is,” said Joe Sprague, executive director of the Massachusetts Golf Association. “It absolutely stunned the committee guys and the press corps who were inside the meeting room when he made the announcement. I found out about two minutes later, and I was pretty speechless.”

The win came as a sigh of relief for Harmeling, who graduated from Princeton in 2012 and recently has taken to PGA Tour Canada to play professionally.

“This one’s going to be awesome for me, no matter what happens,” Harmeling said. "I’ve played good golf the last four or five years, but I haven’t really won anything. This is going to be huge for my confidence.”

Said Rachel Harmeling: “It’s the perfect way for him to start off his career. For him to come out and win such a great tournament – especially since he’s from here – is perfect for him.”

Next up for Evan Harmeling is the PGA Tour Canada's ATB Financial Classic in Calgary.

Maybe there he’ll earn a check that he will keep.

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