Corporate donor expects to match last year's HK$1.3 million contribution towards Operation Santa Claus Finance house Merrill Lynch expects to at least match last year's HK$1.3 million contribution as the largest corporate donor for Operation Santa Claus. The donations from Merrill Lynch will come from its ninth annual Operation Santa Claus Charity Golf Day held at the Mission Hills course in Shenzhen last Friday, and its office mini golf and other activities. Donning baseball caps and polo-necked sweaters, more than 80 players and corporate sponsors competed as Team Frosty and Team Rudolph in the tournament. 'We had 108 people signed up. It's a busy year so some people pulled out. But it was still a good turnout,' said Rob Stewart, head of marketing and communications, Asia-Pacific region, for Merrill Lynch, who is in charge of the firm's charitable activities. Donations were raised through an entry fee for players, cash donations, and sponsorships of holes, tables and golf carts. There were also raffles and mulligan tickets where players can pay to 'cover up' their worst shots. There was also a silent auction with items including whisky, an X-box, a hotel stay and airline tickets. Twenty-five organisations sponsored the event at the 18-hole Mission Hills Golf Club. Fifty golf carts drove onto the course with two members from each team. There were also prizes for the longest drive, the nearest to the hole and overall individual champions. The busy market also affected players' concentration on the greens as they fielded calls from clients. 'This year is different. The market has not slowed down. But I appreciate everyone being generous with their time for charity,' said Merrill Lynch's K.L. Wong, chairman of Asia Origination, who has taken part in the event every year since its launch. Friends and raising money for charity have always been the main reasons for golfers joining the event year after year. 'I don't think we've won. We talked a lot and lacked the competitive spirit,' said Alec Tsui Yiu-wa, chairman of Wag Worldsec Corporate Finance. It was the fourth time he has taken part in the event. 'It's the most meaningful golf day,' he said. After the five-hour day on the greens, Team Frosty beat Team Rudolph 'by a tiny margin' and were crowned tournament champions. A first-timer at the event, Stephen Sukjoon Pak, an associate at law firm Sidley Austin, won the nearest to the hole award 'accidentally'. 'I aimed at the longest drive actually. After I hit, a lady suddenly said I had won a prize.' The longest drive award went to Lodewijk Meens, vice-president at Merrill Lynch's mergers and acquisitions department. 'It was my first shot of the day. I am very proud of it,' he smiled. It was the first time he had competed in the event, as last year he had to work on the day of the tournament. The players then gathered for a late lunch, commenting on a slideshow of photographs taken during the game. They cheered for the winners of raffles and the silent auction. In the end, every player was a winner - either a trophy or medal, and the gift of giving to Operation Santa Claus. 'We're on target to at least match last year's record total,' Mr Stewart said.