Johnson, whose biggest victory was the 2007 Masters, finished four hard-fought rounds 19 under par, ending with a 6-under 64 on the final day to take the 2008 Valero Texas Open title. His name soon will be etched into a boulder at the La Cantera Resort Course in San Antonio, along with the likes of Ben Crenshaw, Justin Leonard and Arnold Palmer.
Johnson’s fourth career win and third come-from-behind victory was made even sweeter with an $810,000 winner’s check, a customized pair of Lucchese boots and the support of a sponsor/organizer team like Valero and Golf San Antonio, Johnson told the crowd.
“I want to thank Mr. (Gene) Edwards and everybody at Valero,” he said. “In this day and age, to have a sponsor like that step up is extremely important to the players and our charities, so thank you.
“This is a first-class event, and it will be a May event next year, so hopefully that will make it bigger and better.”
Johnson dedicated the win to his home state of Iowa, which he has supported through devastating floods earlier this year. With his wife by his side and toddler son, Will, running around the green, Johnson reveled in his victory on No. 18 alongside Golf San Antonio Chairman Tom Stephenson and Edwards, who chaired this year’s tournament for Valero.
Later that evening, Johnson made his “champions walk” to a standing ovation at the Valero Benefit for Children Golf Classic Welcome Dinner. In shorts and a T-shirt, Johnson again thanked Valero’s sponsors, volunteers and leadership for their support of “the most important aspect of the PGA TOUR – charity.”
“If this isn’t an indication of what the PGA TOUR is all about, I don’t know what is,” Johnson told more than 2,400 dinner guests in an elaborate tent erected in the parking lot of the Six Flags Fiesta Texas theme park. “Being a part of this event is just huge. And if you’re not a client of Valero, you must reconsider.”
This year’s fundraising total of $8.5 million was the largest ever for the Valero Texas Open and places the tournament among the most charitable events on the PGA Tour.
And for the first time, the Valero Energy Foundation added a new dimension to the company’s charitable giving with a separate donation of $100,000 to Feed The Children. The gift, which will feed and care for more than 200 children around the world for a year, was given in lieu of a table gift, in appreciation for Valero’s sponsors.
Valero Chairman and CEO Bill Klesse announced the gift during the Benefit for Children Welcome Dinner ceremonies, thanking guests for being a part of Valero’s mission to help and support children everywhere.
“Whether this is your first year here or if you have been with us in past years, I hope you leave with a true sense of what Valero is all about,” Klesse said. “This is about sharing our success with the communities in which we live and work in order to make a real difference in this world. Thank you for being a part of this.”
The dinner’s keynote speaker, PGA TOUR veteran Rocco Mediate, praised Valero’s 1,500 volunteers and the company’s ability to host such a spectacular charitable event. “$8.5 million – wow. It is just remarkable what you all of been able to do,” he said.
The 2008 Valero Texas Open and Benefit for Children tournament brought a record number of guests and sponsors to San Antonio.
Throughout the day Monday, hundreds of sponsor teams played 10 of San Antonio’s most prestigious courses: The Resort and Palmer courses of La Cantera, Sonterra Country Club, Dominion Country Club, Oak Hills Country Club, Hyatt Hill Country Golf Club, SilverHorn Golf Club, Canyon Springs Golf Club, Briggs Ranch Golf Club and Pecan Valley Golf Club.
On Sunday, as VTO champion Zach Johnson accepted his granite trophy, cowboy boots and winner’s check, Golf San Antonio Chairman Tom Stephenson thanked Klesse for his leadership and support of the tournament for yet another year.
“Valero is ready to do it all over again in record time,” Klesse said. The next tournament, to be chaired by Valero Chief Operating Officer Rich Marcogliese, is just seven months away.