Pinehurst golf auction raises funds to help 1,000 furloughed workers

PINEHURST, N.C. -- There are still golfers strolling the courses at Pinehurst.

"A lot more people are walking, we've got pushcarts now that we've recently rolled out," said resort president Tom Pashley.

But the resort properties are largely shuttered right now. Roughly 1,000 of Pinehurst's normal 1,500-person workforce have been laid off.

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"When we had to say goodbye to so many of our longtime employees, or temporary goodbyes if you will, it really motivated us. It became very personal" said Pashley.

A light bulb went off. What if they held an auction of once in a lifetime golf experiences for people to bid on?

"We just kept rattling off item after item, you know the ability to stay in Donald Ross's home for a golf weekend, the ability to play with Payne Stewart's caddie, Mike Hicks, a North Carolinian, was an amazing item," Pashley said.

Next thing you know the bids started rolling in. Large bids for big experiences but smaller ones, too.

"An item like a logo'd golf ball that typically would sell for $5 was selling for $25," Pashley said.

By the time the auction ended nearly $300,000 had been raised. Money that will be put to work.

"We're going to continue to pay both the employee and the employer's portion of health insurance through the end of May," Pashley said. "We're also providing weekly care packages for folks that includes some food and essentials."

Wayne McInnis detailed the contents of the bag he received. "There was a bag of produce, a bag of fruit. Last week, we got a 12 pack of hamburger buns, milk."

McInnis was laid off last Friday. A semi-retired part-timer in the greenhouse department, he's not being hit as hard as full-timers with families, but he appreciates the efforts.

"That's the thing about Pinehurst. It's referred to as a family and that's very true," he said.

What the 1,000 employees need most is their jobs back but absent that in the immediate, this auction and its proceeds will help.

Pashley hopes so, anyway.

"It makes me just want to get our employees back out in front of people just as quickly as possible because they really are the heartbeat of the Pinehurst experience," he said.