Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Zurich Classic has a "Heart"

It has been just over18 years since I began representing professional golfers.  I have been told by many I should blog more about some of my experiences.  I love the game of golf.  I love the fact that golf is about integrity.  I love the Charitable side of golf.  The PGA Tour is very much about Charity.  Golf does have a "Heart".  I am going to try to blog about some of my thoughts and experiences in this arena.

PGA Tour events are fun for fans to attend or watch on television.  There is much more to those events than watching the golfers.  Each event places a strong emphasis on charity fundraising, usually on behalf of local charities in cities where events are staged.  With the exception of a few older events, PGA Tour rules require all Tour events to be non-profit.  The Tour has raised well over a billion dollars for charity. 

This brings me to one specific event I wish every golfer eligible would participate in.  The Zurich Classic in New Orleans stands for everything good about the PGA Tour.  The recovery New Orleans has experienced since Hurrican Katrina hit is due in part to the success of the Zurich Classic.  This event was the first sporting event televised nationally from New Orleans after Katrina.  It showed the nation the city was alive and moving forward.  The Zurich Classic and ForeKids Foundation is all about Charity.  I have never experienced a sponsor with a more charitable "Heart' than Zurich Insurance Group.  I am not aware of an event with a more charitble "Heart' than the Zurich Classic and the ForeKids Foundation where 100% of donations and proceeds go directly to programs for needy children.

When Katrina so devastated New Orleans in 2005 and became one of the strongest storms to impact the coast of the United Sates in over 100 years something remarkable happened.  Zurich Insurance had signed as a title sponsor for the New Orleans PGA Tour event in the spring of 2005.  Katrina hit the "Big Easy" in August of 2005.  Zurich could have backed out of their committment at that time.  What did Zurich do?  I'm glad you asked! 

Zurich proved it has a "Heart". This PGA Tour sponsor based in Zurich, Switzerland flew executives in to view the damage caused by the Hurricane.  They went to Tulane University which had closed their doors for the first time since the Civil War and handed them a check for 75 million dollars.  Tulane was the largest private employer in the city of New Orleans.  Thanks in part to Zurich, Tulane was quickly up and running again and became the city's single largest employer-public or private.  The Civic Center that housed so many homeless people during this crisis was also insured by Zurich.  They, too, received a huge check from Zurich.  The amazing thing about these checks is how quickly they were made available in an attempt to help this great city get back on it's feet.

The PGA Tour proved, once again, it has a "Heart".  Days after the storm hit in 2005 Phil Micelson made a contribution to the recovery effort along with the likes of Hal Sutton, David Toms and Kelly Gibson.  Ben Crane and is family traveled to New Orleans to help tear down destoyed homes.  Many other golfers joined in.  The Phil and Amy Mickelson Charitable Foundation began making yearly contributions of $250,000 for continued support of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.  A number of golfers committed their entire earnings that week to Hurrican Katrina Relief.

This background I have outlined begs the question, "why does every top golfer not commit to the Zurich Classic and play in this event?"  Since I represent PGA Tour golfers I know the answer is generally scheduling.  Every golfer has a set way and a reason why they select the schedule they play.  All golfers eligible for the major championships will schedule those events first along with the WGC events.  Those who have won tournaments should schedule that event as well.  Then, plug in the Zurich Classic!  They do not all do that but I wish they would.  A golfer cannot make a better decision that would impact everything the Tour stands for.  Then, work the rest of your schedule around this.  Steve Worthy, Chairman of the Board of the Fore Kids Foundation and Darrah Schaefer, Chairman of the Board of the Zurich Classic can be seen at Tour events most weeks leading up to the Zurich Classic.  They are always scrambling to secure the names of top golfers to compete in their event.  I cannot imagine a city or tournament having two better representatives than these men.

Golfers love to eat.  Don't we all.  New Orleans has some of the best restaurants and chefs in the United States.  Emeril's is a must!  There is not room or time to list the great restaurants in The Crescent City. While there you have to try Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice and Beignets. One more reason to make this event a priority.

The Wednesday Pro-Am day is the favorite Pro-Am of the year for the pros.  The top restaurants have stations throughout the 18 holes.  They are located just off the tee box on most holes.  Players and caddies certainly have a genuine "Taste of New Orleans" after those rounds.  A few managers have sneaked inside the ropes on these days.  Don't tell anyone.

Are you a music lover?  The New Orleans Jazz Fest coincides with the weekend of the Zurich Classic.  It is possibly the very best musical festival in the United States.

The past winners have included names like Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Davis Love III, Lee Westwood, David Toms, K.J. Choi, Vijay Singh, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner to name a few. The tournament is now held at TPC of Louisiana after being at several different venues dating back to 1938.

I am still looking for a reason for a golfer to not select the Zurich Classic as a must on their golf calendar!