How does one person play 50 rounds of golf, in all 50 states, in 50 days? Clay Phillips, a Covenanter from La Mesa, California, is about to find out. Phillips, a member of Community Covenant Church of El Cajon, is an avid golfer and retired California State Parks superintendent who has planned an ambitious road trip to raise money for clean water.
Phillips says, “Clean water saves lives and makes people healthier by eliminating water-borne diseases and promoting better sanitation. Diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.” According to Water1st International, over two billion people do not have access to clean water. Phillips also notes that millions die each year from water-related illnesses.
Clean water helps end the cycle of poverty by making communities more independent. And Phillips has learned that clean water is one of the world’s problems that can largely be remedied with funding. The donations from his project will go toward two clean water organizations: Water1st International and Project Blue.
Phillips notes, “Both Water1st and Project Blue work with local experts and community members to find the best sustainable solution, whether it’s a well, a piped system, a BioSand Filter, or a system for harvesting rainwater. Local partners coordinate sanitation and hygiene training, assuring community involvement and commitment through labor and the contribution of materials and finances, and the establishment of a local Water Committee to help keep water flowing permanently.
His plan is simple: Philips will raise money for clean water by playing golf in each state. Day one starts in Hawaii on August 24. He will then fly to Alaska and golf at the foot of Mount Denali on the second day. Philips will drive the remaining 48 states, sticking to two-lane roads whenever possible so that he can experience the geographical wonders of driving America.
“This takes my addiction to golf and my love for road trips and makes it something that’s bigger than myself,” says Philips. “It is changing lives through providing a simple thing like clean water.”
Phillips was struck by how something as essential as water
could be so unavailable to people.
Nils Clauson, Covenant World Relief and Development ministry partner liaison, says, “We are grateful for Clay and his commitment to raising awareness and support for Project Blue and other clean water initiatives that are tangible expressions of love for God and love for neighbor and they are carried out in a way that respects the dignity of all people. CWRD Project Blue partner organizations are creating sustainable systems that bring clean water to areas where there has not been access. Partners are working tirelessly with the participation of the whole community through the entire process; from the vision to the planning to the labor to the maintenance, the community is the owner of the project.”
Any donations Phillips receives will go entirely toward the clean water organizations, and not toward personal expenses. “I’m committed to paying for the pleasure of attempting this,” Phillips writes on his website.
Phillips’ awareness of the water crisis began over 15 years ago in an airport. “I was killing time and I saw this series of panels talking about access to clean water and how many hours are wasted just getting clean water, walking miles and miles each day, and the effects of that.”
Phillips was struck by how something as essential as water could be so unavailable to people. “The water they get is often very dirty,” he says, “Millions of people die each year because of that. That just stuck with me because it’s just a matter of digging a well or tapping a spring. And so the bottom line is just money; redirect cash and you dramatically change people’s lives.”
His inspiration to turn golf and travel into a project for clean water began a few years ago on a short-term mission trip to Nepal. A friend told him how he had raised money for a sports pavilion in Guatemala by getting in the Guinness Book of World Records for shooting a basketball in all 48 contiguous U.S. states in eight days. It made Phillips wonder what the parallel activity for him would be. That’s when he connected his concern for clean water with his interest in golf and road trips.
Phillips seeks to live out 1 John 3:18 that calls us not to “love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” He is hopeful that the donations from this project will help those who are suffering. “We, who are the hands and feet of Jesus, have an obligation and opportunity. Access to clean water changes lives today and many subsequent generations thereafter.”
Donations can be made on the 50in50in50Golf4Water website.