MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was the kind of performance a golfer dreams about.
Derek Hitchner, a sophomore at The Blake School in Minneapolis, shot a 10-under-par score of 134, winning last year’s state tournament by a whopping 11 strokes and notching the lowest score in its history.
But it wasn’t nearly the first time Hitchner put up a bunch of birdies. They’ve earned a lot of acclaim — even a spot on the Pepperdine golf team in college in a couple years.
Yet, he isn’t the one who benefits from them the most.
“It’s obviously amazing,” said his coach, Marshall Hoiness. “A very mature thing.”
In 2011, Hoiness’ twin daughters were born premature, at just 25 weeks.
“One of them just under a pound, the other one just over a pound,” Hoiness said. “And they’re doing amazing today.”
Inspired by watching what Hoiness’ family went through, Hitchner came up with an idea three years ago.
“It’s something that means a lot to me,” Hitchner said.
He wanted to help more families like his coach’s by raising money for the neonatal program at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
“The amount of money that they donate is determined by how many birdies I make,” Hitchner said. “It’s cool to have that way, because it also provides an incentive for me to play as best I can to try and raise even more money.”
Most of his supporters pledge a buck or two a birdie, but he’s gotten as much as $10.
“Which is a lot [laughs]!” Hitchner said. “I think the person who donated $10 didn’t really know what it was about, so I got a lot out of that.”
He didn’t realize how many birdies Hitchner makes. He recorded about 140 in competition just last year alone.
“Yeah, he didn’t realize that,” Hitchner said. “It paid off at the end.”
All those low numbers have resulted in one pretty impressively-high one. Over the last three years, Hitchner has raised about $17,000.
“Just seeing how people can sort of come together, in a sense, and collectively work on something that’s pretty impactful, it has been eye opening,” Hitchner said.
And to the benefit of a lot of families, wallet opening, too.