A little over a year ago, the PGA Tour made a mid-pandemic announcement that its leading charitable fundraising tournament would be moving to the heart of Collin County.
That vision came to fruition this week as the 2021 iteration of the AT&T Byron Nelson kicked off at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney.
Two days before the tournament kickoff, McKinney skies saw clouds and wet weather, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of Jeff Walter, the 2021 AT&T Byron Nelson Tournament chairman, who described a feeling of exhilaration for making it to the official week.
“It’s kind of the finish line in some ways, but a starting line in others,” Walter said Tuesday.
While pandemic protocols have begun to wane, this year’s tournament still implemented precautions, including limited audiences.
“We think there’s going to be enough people out here for it to be really exciting and really fun and really going to give us a good base to build on in ’22 and ’23 and beyond,” Walter said.
McKinney Mayor George Fuller forecasted that the tournament will have a tremendous impact on the city.
“We’re seeing an impact now, and I think we’re only going to see that grow of course as the tournament grows with restrictions being lifted over the next years,” Fuller said. “I expect that the Byron will be here much longer than five years.”
The city has said that impact will range from visitors, economic opportunities as well as an international spotlight on the city.
Maylee Thomas-Fuller added that the tournament’s philanthropic impact makes the McKinney relocation that much more meaningful for the community.
“The fact that it’s helping this school and these children, it just makes it so much more beautiful to me as to why McKinney would want to embrace it the way we have,” Thomas-Fuller said, “because it’s going to help and impact so many lives in the future, and not just golfers today and spectators today.”
Funds raised at the tournament benefit Momentous Institute, which provides social emotional health programs for children and families. Kate Whidden, the institute’s interim executive director, said it’s not just about the money — it’s about the relationships, too.
“It’s the coming together of Salesmanship Club of Dallas members with community partners with corporate sponsors, golfers, psychologists, kids,” Whidden said. “It’s this crazy meeting point of all kinds of diverse people, and the synergy that comes from that is what keeps our programs going 12 months a year.”
The tournament began Wednesday and is scheduled to end Sunday.