Professional golf has been around New Orleans since 1931 and an annual event since 1958. Over the years, big names in the golfing community have left their mark here, including Byron Nelson, Billy Casper, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros. Past winners included Ben Crenshaw, Davis Love III, Louisiana native David Toms, Vijay Singh, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson and most recently Seung-Yul Noh. Over the past few years, the Classic has attracted such golfers as Rickie Fowler, Graeme McDowell, Steve Stricker, Luke Donald, Camilo Villegas, Ben Crane, Nick Faldo, Payne Stewart, Greg Norman, Ernie Els, David Duval, Chris DiMarco and Phil Mickelson to name a few. The great relationship between golf and the city of New Orleans has blossomed through the years for various reasons, in addition to the personalities of the golfing world.
From its early days in the 1930s at the City Park Golf Course, tournament golf in New Orleans took hold and began to expand. In 1963, the Greater New Orleans Invitational (as it was originally called) moved to Lakewood Country Club. By 1975, the Classic had its first corporate sponsor – the First National Bank of Commerce (FNBC).
The Classic’s second corporate sponsor was USF&G Insurance, which pushed the tournament to new heights in its 10 years of sponsorship. In those 10 years, the Classic really showcased its big golfing party to the rest of the nation as televised coverage made it a major event on the PGA TOUR.
In 1991, Freeport-McMoRan became the Classic’s third corporate sponsor and golf was contested at English Turn Golf and Country Club. Thanks to Freeport-McMoRan’s commitment to sponsoring a first-class event and philanthropic efforts associated with the tournament within the New Orleans community, the Classic continued to enjoy growth and success.
In 1999, the Classic welcomed Compaq Computer Corporation as the fourth corporate sponsor. At that time, Compaq Computer Corporation was the second largest computer company in the world and the largest worldwide global supplier of computer systems. Compaq added an internationally recognizable name to the tournament, enhancing the stature of this great event. The quality of the event continued to grow with Hewlett Packard as the Classic’s title sponsor after the merge in 2002 between Compaq and Hewlett Packard.
2005 ushered in New Orleans’ newest title sponsor, Zurich Insurance Group, Ltd., an insurance-based financial service provider with a global network that focuses its activities in its key markets in North America and Europe. In addition to the new title sponsor, the Classic had a brand new course in the Pete Dye sensation, the TPC Louisiana.
Despite the devastation from the recent hurricanes, the Foundation was able to successfully host, from New Orleans, the first nationally-televised professional sporting event on a major network (CBS Sports). The 2006 tournament enabled the Foundation to showcase all the things quintessentially New Orleans and helped to distribute more than $2 million to the children’s services organizations we help to support. 2006 culminated with the Foundation being awarded with a $1 million grant from the Bush Clinton Katrina Fund.
In 2008, Zurich Insurance Group showed their support of New Orleans and the tournament when they renewed their contract as title sponsor for an additional two years, bringing them through 2010. Also in 2008, the Classic’s host organization, the Fore!Kids Foundation, celebrated its 50th anniversary of helping the community.
In 2009, Zurich furthered its commitment to New Orleans when it announced its commitment extension through the 2014 tournament.
In 2013, Zurich signed another five-year extension as title sponsor of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. This extension shows Zurich’s continued commitment to New Orleans and its people.
In the Fall of 2016, Zurich and the PGA TOUR announced an exciting new two-man team format for the Zurich Classic. The first team event on the PGA TOUR since 1981 features two rounds each of Foursome and Four-Ball competition.
With the format change, the 2017 Zurich Classic of New Orleans experienced one of the most successful years to date, with Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt edging out Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown in a playoff.
With Zurich’s commitment, an economic impact of more than $40 million annually and an additional $33 million in television exposure, the Zurich Classic generates much-needed funds for the city of New Orleans. Through the years, the Foundation has raised nearly $34 million for children’s charities providing education, healthcare and hope to more than 200,000 children in the region.