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Celebrating 2 Decades of the Derek Jeter Invitational

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Starting in 2003, the celebrity-filled charity golf tournament and gala serves as a marquee fundraising event to benefit the Hall of Famer’s Turn 2 Foundation.

Derek Jeter remembers the conversation as if it was yesterday.

After being drafted sixth overall by the New York Yankees in the 1992 MLB Draft, the rookie shortstop was eating pizza in a Detroit hotel room with his father, Dr. Charles Jeter, during his first big-league season in 1996. Rather than scouting the next day’s pitcher, Derek brought up another topic.

“I told him, ‘Look, this is what I want to do because I always said I was going to do it,’” Jeter recalls. “And that’s why we started the foundation early on.”

Established in 1996, the Turn 2 Foundation was created to motivate young people to turn away from drugs and alcohol and “Turn 2” healthy lifestyles, with Derek drawing inspiration from his father’s experience as a drug and alcohol abuse counselor. Since its inception, the foundation has given back more than $34 million, funding its signature programs as well as organizations that support its mission.

Despite feeling the pressures, prestige, and responsibilities of wearing Yankee pinstripes, the young infielder from Kalamazoo, Mich., made it a priority to increase his impact off the field as he began his Cooperstown-bound career on it.

Why didn’t he wait until he had a few championships under his belt or until he retired to focus on his foundation, rather than while beginning a budding baseball career under the Big Apple’s bright lights?

“I always said I was going to do it,” Jeter says. “I was a big Dave Winfield fan and Dave was one of the first athletes to have his own foundation, so when I grew up, I always wanted to be Dave. I told my parents when I make it to the major leagues, I want to start my own foundation.

“It was a seed that was planted from a young age learning about Dave.”

Jeter’s family is as involved in the foundation as he is. His sister Sharlee, who started out as a volunteer in high school, now serves as president, while their parents, Charles and Dorothy, join their children on the board of directors.

“I could talk all day about my parents,” Derek says. “They’re obviously the reason we’re here and we’ve been successful from the support they’ve given us. When I started the foundation, my dad was like, ‘If you’re serious about it, I’ll help you do it, but make sure you’re serious about it.’”

Added Sharlee: “The foundation is based on all the values they taught us growing up so it’s really natural.”

To help raise money to support its programming for the thousands of young adults it serves, including “Jeter’s Leaders,” the Turn 2 Foundation launched its golf event in Tampa in 2003, which has grown and evolved into an annual event held in Las Vegas, and now The Bahamas.

While he didn’t pick up a golf club until after he put down his glove and bat for good in 2014 and would only hit one shot — “a pitching wedge,” he says with a laugh — and putt with every group at the annual fundraising event, Jeter eventually got bit by the golf bug.

“When I retired I became addicted to it,” the five-time World Series champion says. “So from 2014 for about two years I’d go by myself. It was the only thing I did by myself. I love trying to get better and I worked at it and I got a lot better.

“But golf’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. There’s too many factors, there’s too many things you have to think about. It’s probably the most frustrating thing I’ve done but then you have one good shot and you go back. You think you have it figured out, but you just don’t. You can’t master it. Golf is rough. It will frustrate you.”

Derek Jeter tees off during the Derek Jeter Invitational at the Royal Blue Golf Club at Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas. (Jason E. Miczek / Turn 2 Foundation)

Jeter’s journey with golf took a detour when he moved to Miami to be co-owner and CEO of the Marlins in 2017. Then he got married and had kids — three girls — and recently welcomed his first son with his wife Hannah. 

While he doesn’t get out and play as much as he used to, especially in his first season as a studio analyst for “MLB on FOX,” Jeter plays when he can, including at the 2023 Derek Jeter Invitational at Baha Mar Resort in Nassau, Bahamas.

Joined by a who’s-who list of celebrities and athletes including Michael Strahan, CC Sabathia, Chris Tucker, Rob Gronkowski, Paige Spiranac, Rob Riggle, J.R. Smith, and Tiki Barber, the two-day golf event at Baha Mar’s Jack Nicklaus-designed Royal Blue Golf Club helped raise money and awareness for the Turn 2 Foundation.

The weekend was capped with a gala featuring Radio Hall of Famer Angie Martinez as emcee, speeches from Derek and Sharlee Jeter, words from Baha Mar president Graeme Davis, a live auction hosted by Martinez and Gronkowski, and a performance from Busta Rhymes.

The Derek Jeter Invitational and the weekend’s events raised $1 million to support the Turn 2 Foundation. Wagoneer presented a check to the foundation for $500,000, while the organization, in turn, also supported the Baha Mar Foundation with a $50,000 donation.

On the field or off it, Jeter knows there are plenty of eyeballs, especially from young kids dreaming of being the “next Derek Jeter,” watching his every move.

“It’s always good to set an example,” Jeter says. “We’ve been blessed to have a platform. The platform comes from the career I had but what are you going to do with the platform? You want to have a positive impact on people’s lives. That’s the reason why we have the foundation: to try to impact as many people as we can.

“Now I have my own family and my own kids, so I think about what can I do to make sure I’m not just a role model for them, but there to support them, which is the same premise of the foundation — to be there to support kids, give them a future and open their eyes to different career paths. It’s different but one and the same.”

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