Business First – by Jeff Bell
Nationwide Insurance’s new relationship with the Memorial Tournament paid an early dividend Monday for Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The Columbus insurer’s inaugural Legends Luncheon, which featured golf greats Jack Nicklaus, founder of the Memorial, and Nancy Lopez, raised $250,000 for the hospital.
“We’re just getting started,” Nationwide CEO Steve Rasmussen told a sell-out crowd of 400 at the luncheon in the Statehouse Atrium. “There is a lot more we can do and make a difference.”
The fundraising event was the first public showcase for Nationwide’s heightened involvement with the Memorial, which will be played June 2-5 at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin. The company became the PGA Tour event’s presenting sponsor in September, replacing Morgan Stanley, which had held the sponsorship since 2003.
“We think this is a chance to continue to grow Columbus and showcase all the things we stand for here,” Rasmussen said.
One of them is Nationwide Children’s Hospital, a long-time beneficiary of the Memorial Tournament’s efforts to support charities. The tourney has generated more than $9.5 million for the hospital, including about $530,000 last year, since the Memorial was first played 35 years ago.
That commitment will continue this year but through an alliance between Children’s and the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. The goal is to broaden the foundation’s impact while maintaining the same level of financial support for Children’s, said Nicklaus, who created the foundation six years ago with his wife, Barbara.
The foundation, based in West Palm Beach, Fla., supports programs and activities that address childhood diseases and disorders.
“We want to help kids not just in Columbus and West Palm Beach but a lot of places,” Nicklaus said during the luncheon. “If we can help kids everywhere, then that’s what we want to do. Together we can bring a lot more money, raise a lot more awareness and help a lot more kids.”
Nicklaus’ comments came during a panel discussion with Lopez, this year’s Memorial Tournament honoree, and CBS-TV golf commentator David Feherty. Feherty said the PGA Tour continues to lead professional sports in support for charitable causes.
“Our most precious national resource is children,” he said. “It’s not oil, gas or anything else. We’re looking after what is truly important to us. An event like this generates the kind of money we need to continue to do this.”
The luncheon also featured the presentation of the first Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award by Jack and Barbara Nicklaus to former Children’s Hospital patient Caitie Bogengrief, 19, of Dublin. She was honored for volunteering for more than a half-dozen charitable causes, and her kind spirit and compassion for those in need, especially children.