THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everybody. I’m Dan Sullivan, Executive Director for the Memorial Tournament. Great showing this morning and thank you for coming out here.
It’s an exciting day for the Memorial Tournament as we set the stage for the future in a really positive direction. I’m joined up on stage by Jack Nicklaus II, our chairman of the Memorial Tournament and Muirfield Village Golf Club; Steve Rasmussen, CEO of Nationwide; Jay Monahan, deputy Commissioner of the PGA TOUR; and Jack Nicklaus, founder and host of Muirfield Villae Golf Club and the Memorial Tournament.
I’ll ask Jackie to open with a few comments.
JACK NICKLAUS II: Thanks, Dan. What a great group we have here. Steve, Jay, thanks for being here with my dad and I. We flew up with the family, my mom, Barbara Nicklaus this year, my wife, my brother and his wife came up with us. A lot of friends and family, it’s also nice to see this time of year in chilly Ohio.
It is an exciting time, this announcement today. It’s exciting for all that’s associated with Muirfield Village Golf Club and the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. In 2011, we were fortunate to begin a relationship with Nationwide, a company with its headquarters here in Columbus; and one that is a leader in corporate, civic and philanthropic endeavors.
Most important, they share our love for children, passion for philanthropy, and commitment to the well being of children in central Ohio and beyond.
For five years, the relationship has thrived as we have enjoyed a mutual success in each staging of the Memorial. Today, we are here to talk about our future. The Memorial, Nationwide and the PGA TOUR, are coming together to further elevate the already lofty status of the tournament, as well enhance its impact within the professional golf and certainly right here in our central Ohio backyard.
The three gentlemen to my left will share some more specifics on it, and it’s my pleasure right now to introduce Steve Rasmussen.
STEVE RASMUSSEN: I don’t have to pull a microphone down very often.
You know, it has been a great five years working with the Nicklaus family, the Memorial team and everybody that we’ve been engaged in to bring this tournament on.
Frankly, for us, it was a labor of love to work on trying to go forward for the next six years. I think when we all thought about the opportunity, there really wasn’t a question in our minds to do this.
I mean, certainly, this is the greatest golf venue, one of the greatest golf venues in the country, but frankly for those of us here in Central Ohio, this is a pretty neat thing to have because we are blessed to have a great golf course, great facilities, and a great team that gets things done here that makes this a truly enjoyable place to be.
And frankly, when the Memorial Tournament comes around, it’s a chance to showcase, obviously this wonderful course and the great players that are on it, but also to showcase the fine City of Columbus and all the surrounding area here that all of us call home.
And so, as we look down for the next six years, we seek further great opportunity. Frankly, to see the tournament get continually elevated, and see the opportunity for that elevation to bring more folks and engage them with this tournament, does nothing but help the tournament.
But more importantly, we at Nationwide have always said that we are more than a business, and one of the great things that comes from this is the charitable work that gets done by the tournament and the staff and by the Nicklaus family and everybody engaged for us to help Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Over the last five years, we have raised right at $6 million. We anticipate seeing that come up, because frankly, last year was our record. Between the Legends Luncheon and the tournament, we raised $1.7 million last year, and that’s pretty exciting as we see all the opportunities for children to use those dollars to help young people.
We know just like the Nicklaus’s, the children need our help, and we couldn’t find any better partners than Jack and Barbara; because of their commitment to the children’s philanthropy that they do and their help in the children’s philanthropy that we do.
And so this is a marriage that is really made in heaven, and frankly we are proud to be part of the tournament and we are proud to be part of the great friendship we have with the Nicklaus family and we look forward to many great years to come. Thank you.
JAY MONAHAN: Good morning, everyone. On behalf of Commissioner Finchem and the membership of the PGA TOUR, I just want to say, I am honored and proud to be here this morning. This is an exciting day for the PGA TOUR and for the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
For 40 years, the Memorial has been a pioneer on the PGA TOUR and has continued to remain on the leading edge of golf played at the highest level. From its outset in 1976, Jack, Barbara and many others created an event that had all the attributes of a successful golf tournament.
Think about where we are: Muirfield Village Golf Club, word-class golf club, world-class facilities, through the years, a source of constant investment and creativity, continuing to take this property up to an elite status. And you need to look no further than the fact that this venue has hosted three great team commissions in The Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup and The Presidents Cup.
Now, we are indebted to the Nicklaus family in so many ways, and thank Jack for all he’s done with the Memorial and for his incredible impact on this game.
As I was at my house last night, I was thinking about what a special day this is, and I just ask you to pause for a moment and just think about how unique this is that the greatest player in the game has created an event in for his hometown, that is in keeping with his stature within the game. Has benefitted so many children and families through Nationwide Children’s Hospital and has impacted positively, has showcased this great region to the world, and has in it a sponsor in Nationwide, an 85-year-old company, a Fortune 100 company as you just heard from Steve, a company with an incredible soul. This is an incredible formula. Thanks to both of you and congratulations. We’re very proud of this relationship.
Now, as Dan alluded to earlier, as did Jackie, there are some things we are going to be doing moving forward that take an already extremely elevated event to an even higher position and I’ll talk about a few of those.
For 2016, the purse will increase by $2.3 million to $8.5 million with the winner earning $1.615 million. Moving forward the purse will increase by at least $200,000 each year.
Beginning next year, the winner of the Memorial presented by Nationwide will receive a three-year TOUR exemption, which is a year more than the majority of TOUR events. Additionally, each year the Memorial will receive a one-hour special to air on the tournament’s broadcast partner, CBS Sports. And we are committed to ensuring that the Memorial Tournament will hold a prominent day within the late May, early June time frame each year.
Additionally, the PGA TOUR will assist in the annual promotion of the event and support the collective growth of the commitment by the Memorial Tournament and by Nationwide to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital and to the Nicklaus Children’s Healthcare Foundation.
Finally, let me just say that Jack Nicklaus and this region have had one hell of a run and are having one hell of a day. We have a commitment from Nationwide through 2021 that perpetuates the Memorial and later this evening, Jack Nicklaus will receive the Muhammad Ali AWARD at the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year dinner in New York City. Now that’s pretty incredible.
And it also follows a year in which Jack Nicklaus in March received the Congressional Gold Medal and Barbara Nicklaus in June received the USGA’s Bob Jones Award. As we leave for the holidays and think about all the people that are going to be positively impacted by this great announcement, I encourage you all who have had a big hand in the growth of this event to reflect on this great accomplishment. Thank you very much.
JACK NICKLAUS: Thank you, Jackie and Steve and Jay for your nice comments. My family and all of us here at Muirfield Village Golf Club, we want to thank you for being part of this important day for us.
First of all, Nationwide, has been really, really great. Steve, you and your group have gone way over board to make sure that the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide is what it should be and we thank you very much for all those efforts, and I know that continuing it will be something that we all will treasure as we go on. The past five years have been pretty good, not only pretty good, they have been really good, and the next five will be even better.
Jay, thanks to you, and Tim. You know, the Memorial Tournament, I didn’t feel like we had all the love from the PGA TOUR in its early years. But when Tim became Commissioner, he never missed a year. Been here every year. You have been here; you’ve supported. I think that the TOUR has really bent over backwards to try to make the Memorial Tournament what we have all wanted it to be and their commitment to the future of this event is very, very special to us.
Today it’s a culmination of many years of conversation, meetings with the TOUR; and Dan Sullivan and Dan’s hard work, and actually, being a bulldog to get this done, he’s really worked hard to make this happen. Dan, you and your team and all the management team here at Muirfield have really done a great job.
When we started the Memorial Tournament 40 years ago, this is the 40th playing of the Memorial this year, 41st, it’s 40 years we’ve done it. I had three things in mind when we started to do the Memorial Tournament.
In 1966, they said, you know, wouldn’t it be great if we brought back something like the Masters to Columbus, Ohio, back to the place where I grew up, back to a place that supported me through the years, and a town, and the way we looked at it then, had about six home Ohio State football games and were starving for something else to do and something they could really put their teeth into.
So Columbus has supported it tremendously, and we have been very blessed to be able to do that, and also to be able to support the local charities with Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Many of you may not know the story originally of how we got involved, then Columbus Children’s Hospital, got involved with our tournament. Our daughter, Nan in 1966, was only about 10 or 11 months old and she had a crayon, we didn’t know, she kept choking. But we found she had a crayon lodged down in her windpipe. Went down to Columbus Children’s Hospital to get it. Didn’t have but adult bronchoscope which they used, which broke the crayon, found in her lungs pneumonia.
Nan we weren’t sure about for a while, but we felt like Nationwide Children’s Hospital saved her life. We said if there’s anything we ever do in life, we do it, it’s going to be for children.
So we did the Memorial Tournament. Having the Children’s Hospital be the recipient has been just a natural thing for us to do and one we wanted and one that we have been very blessed to have not only be able to support them but them support us.
Wanted to make sure we delivered a superior product, not only from a golf course but the way we treat the players, the way we treat the patrons, television. Anybody who becomes involved in the Memorial Tournament, make sure we did it in a first-class way, that was my second thing.
And in the end, our goal was to be a service to the great game of golf. I think that I’ve always got a big thrill — and I remember hearing at Augusta, our only goal was to be a service to the game of golf; I loved Cliff Roberts when he said that.
And that’s really our only goal here. Golf, it’s given me so much and it’s given this community a lot. And I just wanted to make sure that we could give the game back something, and that’s what we’ve tried to do.
And of course, the third thing we’ve tried to do is honor the greats of the game in the past. We thought it was only fitting, I remember when Joe Dye and I walked this piece of property, back in maybe 1972, 1973, we talked the property and kind of figured out a way of what we would do with Joe — to the Commissioner of the PGA TOUR.
Joe said, “You know, nobody has ever honored the greats of the golf in the past. Maybe that’s a nice thing for the Memorial Tournament and right around Memorial Day to do that.”
I said, “Joe, that’s a good idea,” and that’s what we did.
Now this year, this coming year, we’re honoring Johnny Miller as our honoree. We’re delighted to have Johnny. I think Johnny has been a great player. He’s been great on television and he’s been a great addition to the game of golf, so we are delighted to do that.
Also want to say that nothing could have happened out here without the hard work of Nicholas LaRocca and Paul Latshaw on the ground and Larry Dornisch, and of course, Dan Sullivan. It’s been tremendous. We’ve just been so delighted with all the hard work that these guys have put in and their staff to make the Memorial better.
The community, we’ve impacted the community now in 40 years, I think about $26 million in donations to the charities. Last year was our best year. We raised a little over $2 million, about 1/6th of that going to Nationwide. We are extremely proud of that and extremely proud of the first four years.
With the enhancements we’ve made with the TOUR, we’re looking forward — I’m looking forward to the next 40, too, and looking forward to many good years in the future.
It’s a legacy that I’m very proud of, what’s happened here, but many other people should be very proud, too. A lot of people put in a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of energy, a lot of give and take. We appreciate all the hard work by all of you out here, all the volunteers, everybody who has been here year after year.
The press, appreciate your efforts and so forth. We just wish all of you — hope all of you enjoyed the last 40 years and we hope you enjoy the next 40. Thank you so much for being here today.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Jack, and thank you, gentlemen. Exciting day for the Memorial Tournament and Nationwide and all of Central Ohio. We will take questions from the media in general.
Q. Steve, you’ve been a very good, actually a great supporter of golf over the years, but you’ve also supported other sports. In fact, I even noticed last night, Monday Night Football, Nationwide has a sponsorship with the Gruden Grinder maybe. But I wonder if you can speak to Nationwide’s relationship with golf and your great support over the years, and why it fits so well with the Nationwide corporation, your company.
STEVE RASMUSSEN: Through the years, going back to our early days when we got engaged with the Senior Tour and moved over into the Nationwide Tour and then ultimately, I’d like to say graduated to this event, you know, the golf population folks that watch golf, play golf, are engaged in golf, certainly speak to a lot of our customer base.
So that certainly says a lot about in terms of our just marketing effort in general and how we try to get our product out. But more importantly, I truly believe golf represents a rather unique sports venue in terms of the amount that’s given back by golf to charitable enterprise all over the United States. And frankly now, all over the world.
So there are almost no sports that do it at the level that golf does, and frankly, given who we are and what our brand is, we like being engaged with the TOUR, and certainly, I think we have had great success with that and we look forward to it going down the road.
Q. Jack, do you remember what the purse was and what your winning check was for your first tournament win, and are you amazed at how far golf has come in terms of even the financial reward of that.
JACK NICKLAUS: No and yes. (Laughter) Do I remember what I won? No, I have no idea. Anybody have an idea?
JACK NICKLAUS II: The purse was $200,000 to start off.
JACK NICKLAUS: I must have won 40, 20 percent of the purse.
Am I amazed at what golf has done? Yeah, I’m amazed. I’m amazed at the growth of what has happened over the last 40 years. Amazed at how our economy, raising at a fairly modest pace, golf has way out-paced the economy.
Also, if I may just add to that, I’m really pleased with what’s going on on the PGA TOUR and the health of the game of golf. I think the health of the game from a tournament standpoint is fantastic right now. You’ve got the young guys: You’ve got the Jordans and Rory and Jason and Rickie and Justin Thomas, and I think Patrick Rodgers is going to be terrific. You’ve got Matsuyama, and a bunch of players, all over the world, the TOUR has really got some great young players, and they are really good kids. They are really fun to work with and they understand what’s going on. They give.
I know Rickie Fowler, every time Barbara has anything happens, Rickie, texts her: “You got something going on, Barb, how can I be a part of it?” She gets that from a lot of people. And I love seeing the kids today, they get involved and we have our tournament down at the Bear’s Club and we get all the guys. We don’t really ask them to come. They just say we want to be there.
It’s really great what the young kids are doing. They understand that they have to give back. They are giving us so much that they give back, and I think that’s really good.
And you’ve got some of the old guys there that are still pretty good. I think you’ll see Tiger play a lot more good golf, I really do. And I think you’re going to see, I don’t think Phil is done. I think we’ve got an interesting dynamic going on right now with the young guys that are coming on that have learned how to win and learned how to play, and while some of the old guys are still going to come back — funny calling Tiger an old guy (laughter) he is (laughter) he turns 40 in another week or two (laughter).
But anyway, I think golf is very healthy right now. When you get things like what happened today, here we have taken and raised the purse 2.3 million, that’s a lot. What did we play the first year, 200,000? Now we’re going to raise it that much every year. It’s unbelievable where we’ve gone, where we’ve been and where we’re going. Fun to be part of it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for coming and being a part of this.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports