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posted: 6/2/2014 8:13 PM

Golden Tee charity event to benefit 3 nonprofits

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  • Golden Tee is the #1 coin operated video game in the country.

    Golden Tee is the #1 coin operated video game in the country.
    Courtesy of Golden Tee

Joanne Levine

This year, hundreds of charitable golf tournaments will be held in the Chicago area, raising funds for worthy causes. But only one of them will be held inside a pub.

The Players Charity Championship IV (PCC IV) will be held June 5-8, 2014, not at Medinah or Cog Hill, but at Nero's Pizza & Pub in Algonquin. No clubs, bags, or carts required: these golfers will be playing Golden Tee, the most successful coin-operated video game in history.

Golden Tee is the creation of Incredible Technologies (IT), the largest U.S. manufacturer of pay-to-play video games. IT, which also develops casino games, home entertainment products and mobile applications, is based in Vernon Hills. The event will benefit three local nonprofits:

• The Nikolas Ritschel Foundation, Rockford -- which supports adolescent adults diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. and their loved ones.

• Salute, Inc., Palatine -- which helps meet the financial, physical and emotional needs of military service members, veterans and their families.

• Starlight Children's Foundation, Chicago -- which improves the lives of kids and families around the world.

More than 125 players from across the country are expected to flock to the area to compete, raising more than $100,000 for these charities and having fun at the same time.

It's not your typical golf outing, but that's nothing new.

First, take Golden Tee. While most coin-op video games faze out after six months, Golden Tee is jubilantly celebrating its 25 year anniversary. Every month, thousands of players spend millions of dollars competing in Internet enabled tournaments. Players have won $55 million to date, and some actually earn a living by playing this game.

Second, take the players themselves. They're a unique breed, a fiercely fun-loving community that somehow balances intense competition with unwavering camaraderie and good will.

It was the players who, in 2004, got the idea of leveraging their love of the game for good causes. They formed Video Golfers 4 Underdogs (VG4U), a 501c3 nonprofit, which has raised more than $175,000 in charitable donations to date. This year's participants have already created personal crowdfunding Web pages, soliciting friends and family to pledge donations.

Finally, take the event itself. It kicks off on Thursday, June 5 and runs through Sunday, June 8. Beyond the Golden Tee championship, the festivities will include celebrity appearances, live and silent auctions, and a traditional golf tournament -- the real kind -- among other things. These guys know how to have fun.

PCC IV was kicked off by Jon Biedermann, VP of Video Golfers for Underdogs. A nonprofit professional, he manages, a fundraising software business, and helped organize prior PCCs.

"We've learned from past events," he says. "This year we're using that knowledge in a variety of ways. We have fundraising goals for each contestant, auctions, raffles, a 'real golf' tournament, and other ways for members of the Golden Tee community to participate."

PCC IV is being run by Power Events Group of St. Louis, Missouri (, the premiere authority on live golden tee tournaments and the brains behind the National Golden Tee Tour. Yes, this video game has a live tour, a series of tournaments that take place across the U.S. throughout the year.

But this one will be special.

"To see our players compete to raise money for such worthy organizations is very gratifying," says IT President Elaine Hodgson. "The fact that it's part of the game's 25th anniversary celebration will make it even sweeter."

The nonprofits are appreciative as well.

Says Kelli Ritschel-Boehle, mother of Nikolas Ritschel and executive director of the foundation that bears his name, "One of Nik's last wishes was that we 'take one step' to help young adolescent adults in their cancer journey. With the generosity and power of collaboration Video Golfers for Underdogs is providing, our one step just became a giant step."

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Players Charity Championship IV

June 5-8, 2014

Nero's Pizza & Pub

300 Eastgate Court, Algonquin, IL 60102