RMC raises $1.35M for local charities; 82,500 more Detroit homes have internet access

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — The 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic raised more than $1.35 million for local charities, the title sponsor of Detroit's PGA Tour stop announced Thursday morning.

Of that total, $805,000 was designated for the tournament's Changing the Course initiative, which aims to end Detroit's digital divided by 2025. When the initiative launched in 2020, about 40% of Detroit households had access to the internet; today, with the help of Changing the Course and the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, that number is 67.5%.

That number represents a household with at least one member who has access to reliable broadband, as well as a device to access the internet.

Cam Davis reacts after he hits an eagle out of the sand trap on 17 in the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Golf Club in Detroit on July 4, 2021.

“It is our passion to use the Rocket Giving Fund as a force for change and an opportunity to bridge Detroit’s digital divide,” Jay Farner, CEO of Rocket Companies and chairman of the Rocket Giving Fund, said in a statement. “The success of Changing the Course is measured by the number of Detroit families who are now able to access the internet as well as the brighter future digital inclusion provides. While we’ve already seen a near 70% improvement in the number of Detroiters with access to digital tools, we are driven even harder by this success to make an even greater impact through the 2022 event and beyond.”

Prior to the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic, the tournament launched EBB 313, which was designed to connect Detroit households with what then was called the Emergency Broadband Benefit and now is known as the Affordable Connectivity Program. The program provides low-income households a $30 monthly discount on Internet access as well as a one-time $100 grant toward a smart device. 

Rocket Mortgage said Thursday that 82,500 Detroit households participated in the program, which amounts to more than 30% of all Detroit households.

The Changing the Course initiative is a wing of Rocket Mortgage's Connect 313 Fund, which has invested more than $40 million toward ending Detroit's digital divide. Prior to the 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic, Detroit was the least-connected major city in the United States.

“We are well on our way to realizing the dream of every Detroiter having access to the internet, technology and digital-literacy training within a 10-minute walk of their home,” Joshua Edmonds, chief advocate for Connect 313 and Detroit's director of digital inclusion, said in a statement.

"The Rocket Mortgage Classic is more than just a funding partner, they are a thought partner. Together we work to change lives through digital inclusion every day.”

In addition to the money designated for Changing the Course, the Rocket Mortgage Classic donated $100,000 to the Children's Foundation, benefiting Midnight Golf, the Detroit Police Athletic League, First Tee Greater Detroit and Human-I-T. The Greater Palmer Park Community also received a donation of $109,828, and Birdies for Charity — a conglomeration of different local charities — received $437,169.

The $1.35 million raised from the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic marked the second-highest charitable donation in the tournament's three-year history — with $400,000 pledged by Rocket Mortgage from AREA 313, with $5,000 for each eagle made at the par-5 14th and each birdie made at the par-4 16th during the tournament's four days.

The Rocket Mortgage Classic raised $1.1 million in its inaugural year, 2019, and then raised $2.7 million in 2020. Despite no ticket sales in 2020 because of COVID-19, the tournament was able to raise so much in large part because of a TV exhibition organized by PGA Tour player Bubba Watson.

“We’re grateful to work alongside such dedicated partners who all share the same vision and tirelessly work toward achieving it,” said Jason Langwell, executive director of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. “The continued support of the countless individuals and organizations involved in the Rocket Mortgage Classic allows us to continue Changing the Course across Detroit.”

The Rocket Mortgage Classic — which has featured such big names as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau, Viktor Hovland, Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Watson — will be played this year from July 28-31.

Last fall, the PGA Tour and Rocket Mortgage announced an extension through 2027, with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan saying, "The Rocket Mortgage Classic has simply made all the right moves."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984