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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

No St. Jude patients at 2020 WGC-FESJI, but still plenty of ways to help St. Jude Children's Research Hospital this week

Birdies for St. Jude among virtual fundraising initiatives happening throughout the World Golf Championship

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The stars of golf are at TPC Southwind, but the stars of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational are not.

In addition to no spectators and a reduced volunteer workforce, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital patients will not be on the grounds this year due to COVID-19.

"Look it's tough, but it pales into comparison with the journey they've been on," ALSAC President and CEO Richard Shadyac Jr. said. "It's still going to be a great event, it is going to be a different event, because we need to keep it positive, because that's the way our patients get through their journey, they keep it positive, and we all have many, many things to be fortunate about."

It is a missed opportunity for the kids, and for the golfers as well. 

"You can always see the smiles on their face when they get their favorite players around and get to talk to their favorite players," Rahm said. "It puts a whole new perspective on life."

While the patients are not at the course, their artwork is. It can be found on caddie bibs and, for the second straight year, on Justin Thomas' shoes, this year designed by 10-year-old Nate.

"It's not just Nate that I'm pulling for, it's everyone at the hospital," Thomas said. "But I'm pretty excited I'm going to have some sweet shoes to rock this week."

Thomas' shoes will be put up for auction as part of Birdies for St. Jude, a virtual fundraising effort where fans can pledge to donate a flat rate, or each time their favorite golfer birdies a hole.

The golfers are also getting in on the action. Jon Rahm is donating $1,000 per birdie and $5,000 per eagle this week. 

Wednesday's FedEx Cares Charity Challenge brought in $100,000 for St. Jude alone, but fundraising isn't the only goal this week. 

"Don't ever lose track of the fact that this is a forum to tell the world about the resource that is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital," Shadyac said. "The incredible work that takes place here, and some of the life-saving journeys of our patients."

St. Jude set a record with $5 million in total value generated at Memphis' first World Golf Championship.

Shadyac says they expect to fall short of that figure this year without all of their usual events that surround the golf tournament, but are hoping initiatives like Birdie's for St. Jude will help close that gap.