Outside of Champions Tour, Tom Lehman dedicates time to giving back

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Outside of Champions Tour, Tom Lehman dedicates time to giving back

PGA Tour Champions

Outside of Champions Tour, Tom Lehman dedicates time to giving back

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Over the last two decades, Tom Lehman has been one of the top names in golf, compiling an impressive list of accomplishments on courses around the world.

But what he is doing off the course might be the true measure of the Scottsdale pro who is well behind the leaders heading into today’s final round of the Charles Schwab Cup at Phoenix Country Club.

Lehman, 60, has long been known for his many charitable efforts, which have been recognized with numerous awards, and most recently has directed his attention to projects that benefit at-risk kids and adults who could be at risk for colon cancer.

“Although I still support a lot of causes in various ways, I now give the bulk of my time to fewer causes, like Elevate Phoenix,” Lehman said. “I like being hands-on. I feel like I can have a greater impact on people’s lives that way.”

Lehman is board chairman of Elevate Phoenix, a non-profit program administered through the Phoenix Union High School District that provides inner-city youth with mentoring opportunities, which are available 24 hours a day.

Lehman’s charity event, the Elevate Phoenix Invitational, has raised more than $2 million in three years in support of that program, including nearly $1 million Monday, before the start of this week’s Schwab Cup tournament.

Even as preparations were being made for that charity event and he was gearing up for three weeks of Schwab Cup playoffs, Lehman was in Washington D.C. last month, meeting with President Donald Trump and members of Congress as a brand ambassador for Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC). Its goal is to raise awareness of the nation’s second-deadliest cancer and make testing more affordable.

Lehman knows all about the dangers because he is a colon cancer survivor, something he never revealed until last year when he joined the Fight CRC campaign.

He was just 36 years old and at the peak of his playing career when he was diagnosed in 1995 while playing in The Masters.

“That, of course, is a very young age to have that diagnosis,” Lehman said. “It was very unusual and I was very lucky to catch it that early, which is why I am so involved now. Early detection is so important.”

Fight CRC is pushing for passage of a bill entitled the “Reducing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act,” which would close a Medicare loophole that currently deters many seniors from getting screenings due to the cost. As part of the effort to raise awareness, Lehman now wears a golf cap with a Fight CRC logo on the front during competition.

After pitching the bill to members of Congress, Lehman received a request to meet with Trump as well, which reflects the kind of respect he has garnered in his distinguished career.

Trump is the sixth president Lehman has met, including four Republicans and two Democrats. But political stripes are of little concern when it comes to an effort that could save lives.

“That was unexpected,” Lehman said, “but it was great to be able to pitch it to the president, because he is someone who can make things happen quickly, and the sooner we can get this passed, the more lives we can potentially save.”

Lehman has 35 worldwide pro victories, with five coming on the PGA Tour, including the British Open and Waste Management Phoenix Open. He has held the No. 1 ranking in the world and is the only golfer to be named Player of the Year on the PGA, Champions and Hogan (now Korn Ferry) Tours.

He has been inducted to the Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame in his home state and will be inducted to the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame on Nov. 26.

Today, Lehman will complete his 10th season on the Champions Tour and continues to rank among its top players, winning the Mitsubishi Electric Championship and posting five top-10 finishes in 18 events this year. He has 12 Champions victories, including three majors and two Schwab Cup championships.

“It’s fun to work hard and compete,” he said. “I still love the game and working hard to improve and I really enjoy the camaraderie out here. Sometimes I think about when it will end, but as long as I’m competitive I’ll keep playing.”

Whenever his playing career ends, it’s a safe bet that the hard work off the course will continue in an effort to improve the lives of others. That is part of the lifestyle Lehman and his wife, Melissa, have established through the Lehman Family Foundation.

“In my professional life and personal life, we as a family have been very involved with the community and the reason is the belief that those who have much are expected to give much,” he said. “Success doesn’t define who you are and failure doesn’t define who you are. The desire to give back to people in need says a lot about who you are.”

Chip shots

Jeff Maggert, who is trying to post a wire-to-wire victory, birdied the final hole Saturday to take a one-shot heading into today’s final round. Maggert, who led by four shots entering the round, is trying to win for the first time since 2015, when he captured four titles.

Miguel Angel Jimenez birdied the last two holes to match the week’s best round of 63 and move within 1 shot of lead and Retief Goosen was two shots back after a 66.

Scott McCarron came into the event with a comfortable lead in the race for the season-long Charles Schwab Cup and is projected to remain on top despite struggling this week as he is tied for 25th, 11 shots behind. Jerry Kelly closed the gap with his round of 64, but would need a strong finish to catch McCarron. Goosen and Bernhard Langer have an outside chance of winning the Cup, which includes a $1 bonus annuity, but would need to win, coupled with low finishes by McCarron and Kelly.

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