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Tournament Director Tom Maletis Reminisces 25 Years of Cambia Portland Classic

Portland’s premiere golf event returns August 29 – September 1.

Presented by Cambia By Ben McBee June 20, 2019

Tom Maletis has witnessed a lot of incredible golf. As president of Tournament Golf Foundation, the non-profit organization that runs the Cambia Portland Classic, he’s played an enormous role in establishing what has become the longest-running stop on the LPGA Tour. 

He has seen the likes of Juli Inkster win the contest in 1999, also qualifying her for the exclusive LPGA Hall of Fame. He was there when Suzann Pettersen came from nine strokes back on the final day to gain the trophy in 2011. And he cheered for Annika Sörenstam as she came up just shy of earning a three-peat in 2004. Now celebrating its 48th anniversary, the competition has been a showcase of some of the world’s premiere professional women golfers, as well as a launch pad for skilled amateurs.

But without the countless volunteer hours and the behind-the-scenes effort from Maletis, who is celebrating his 25th year as tournament director and chairman, many of those historic moments on the course would have never happened. “What Tom has done for the LPGA Tour and the advancement of women’s golf has been absolutely amazing,” says Inkster. “The Portland Classic has always been one of my favorite events on Tour – I love showing up each year to know that I will be greeted by Tom and his great smile. I am honored to have known him for the last 30 years and lucky to call him a friend.” 

Maletis’ passion for Portland is lifelong. He grew up in the area, graduating from Sunset High School before attending the University of Oregon on a baseball scholarship. After college, he spent many years in the local beverage distribution business and was always appreciative of how the community supported him and his family. Golf became more than a game, it became a way to show his gratitude.

He joined TGF in 1989, and for 30 years he has been a pillar of the Portland Classic’s legacy, ensuring its longevity and success. “He has been the guy when we’ve had tournament sponsors change over the years, Tom is the guy that got in there and ended up through his personality and drive, helping us find and nurture new sponsors,” explains longtime friend and fellow TGF member Bill Hurst. “The reason it’s happened is his vision, perseverance and commitment to this event and Portland. He does it all out of the goodness of his heart.”

A true ambassador of the city, Maletis has overseen more than $23 million donated by the Cambia Portland Classic to charities such as Boys & Girls Clubs, Easterseals Oregon and Oregon Food Bank. Mark Ganz, President and CEO of Cambia Health Solutions says, “Tom’s enthusiasm for the game, dedication to the community and support of the Portland Classic has helped shine a light on amazing women athletes who inspire us all to see what’s possible.” The philanthropic spirit is certainly contagious; 2017 champion Stacy Lewis made national news when she dedicated her $195,000 winner’s check to Hurricane Harvey relief for her hometown of Houston. 

In 2019, the competition will be held from August 29 to September 1 at Columbia Edgewater Country Club, a course loved by competitors and fans alike. The course’s exhilarating and intimate atmosphere draws crowds from all over the Pacific Northwest, as it’s really the region’s only exhibition of top-flight golf talent.

Its dedication to youth and up-and-coming golfers has made for some truly remarkable moments. Canadian phenom Brooke Henderson earned her first LGPA win at the Cambia Portland Classic in 2015, setting a course record of 21 under par — all as a 17 year old. She defended her title in 2016. “It’s great to have a champion like that, a young player, and see her continue to do so well,” Maletis says. All in all, 14 amateurs have played in the open and gone on to professional careers.

Maletis’s impact on the sport of golf cannot be understated. He accepted the Patty Berg Award in 2014, the prestigious accolade that’s given to someone who "exemplifies diplomacy, sportsmanship, goodwill and contributions to the game of golf." The feat is all the more impressive considering the award is only given when the tour determines a worthy recipient. “I was really honored,” he says. “I didn’t really expect something like that. But then when I went down and looked at some of the recognizable names that were on there — they didn’t give the award every year. That’s when it really hit home.”

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