November 16, 2020 – Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Liberty Foundation will use an innovative approach to host its annual golf tournament. The 23rd Liberty Foundation Golf Invitational - A New Reality Tournament will take place as a virtual reality game on Friday, December 4, 2020 at a virtual golf course created exclusively for the tournament.
“This tournament is significant since it is the first time that a golf tournament will be held in virtual form in Puerto Rico or across the Caribbean. Because of the pandemic and the Governor’s executive order, we could not hold the regular tournament as we normally get many participants who travel to Puerto Rico just for the event. Nonetheless, our intent on holding an event in some shape or form will become a reality in order to raise funds for our beneficiaries and keep our commitment to the organizations that we support at the foundation, especially this year,” said Naji Khoury, president and CEO of Liberty Puerto Rico and Liberty Foundation’s president. “Thanks to this innovative technology, we are able to celebrate our key fundraising activity in an alternate way, while we continue making a positive impact in our society.”
Khoury added that, as part of Liberty’s commitment to support entrepreneurs on the island, Puerto Rican virtual production startup VeoVeo was tapped to design and develop the game. Located in San Juan, VeoVeo is a studio that specializes in virtual reality and augmented reality development, experiential games and marketing, and product design. This company has been established for over three years in the VR industry and it is the only local company specializing in virtual reality experiences and video games in Puerto Rico. In addition, Tony Loyola, president of the Professional Golf Association’s Puerto Rico chapter, served as a consultant in the design of the game and the virtual golf course.
Participants will be able to play a 9-hole golf invitational game with an Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset and controls that players will receive via mail once registered. Developed by Facebook Technologies and released just last month, the Oculus Quest 2 is the latest generation in virtual reality technology.
According to Yadira Valdivia, Liberty Foundation’s executive director, the game will be a virtual reality experience in which players can submerge themselves in the custom-made golf course and play the game right in the comfort of their own homes.
“Once you put your headset on, you are right in that golf course, which looks and feels incredibly real,” Valdivia explained. “The game is also the closest you can get to an actual golf experience. All the details of the course and the holes have been painstakingly recreated to provide players with a genuine experience that we know they are going to enjoy tremendously.”
Inside the game, the players will see themselves as avatars and enter a virtual lobby where all participating sponsors will be present. All teams will hold brief meetings through Microsoft Teams before and after the game. The players will then gather in foursomes and will be able to interact among themselves during the game. Each one of the nine holes is designed as an island and, as they play, the participants will be teleported to each hole.
“We have many players participating this year who could not make the trip to Puerto Rico in previous years because they could not get away from work. This time we have players from Europe and Latin America who will be participating for the first time thanks to this technological format,” Valdivia explained. “The response from businesses, friends and collaborators has been extraordinary. They are really looking forward to this event.”
Last year, the 22nd Liberty Foundation Golf Invitational raised a net amount of $650,000, which allowed the foundation to award an unprecedented donation of $422,000 for 18 nonprofit organizations on the island. Those organizations were Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico, Casa Familiar Virgilio Dávila, Casa de Niños Manuel Fernández Juncos, Centro Espibi, Centros Sor Isolina Ferré, Felisa Rincón Gautier Foundation, Fundación A-Mar, Fundación CAP, Hogar Santa Teresita del Niño Jesús, Hogares Teresa Toda, Instituto Nueva Escuela, Jóvenes de Puerto Rico en Riesgo, Make Music Happen (Berklee in Puerto Rico), Movimiento para el Alcance de Vida Independiente (MAVI), Niños de Nueva Esperanza, Para La Naturaleza, Ponce Children’s Choir and the San Juan Children’s Choir. The remaining funds are used to continue the Foundation’s philanthropic program throughout the entire year.
The tournament has been raising funds for community organizations in Puerto Rico since 1996, when it raised $19,000 for the Hogar San José in Luquillo. Since then, the event has raised over $2.8 million for over 20 nonprofit organizations throughout the island, including last year’s donation.