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 include Ben Crenshaw, Davis Love III, Louisiana native David Toms, Vijay Singh, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson, Billy Horschel, Justin Rose and Ryan Palmer and Jon Rahm. Over the 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. The great relationship between golf and the city of New Orleans has blossomed through the years.
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 merger in 2002 between Compaq and Hewlett Packard.
2005 ushered in New Orleans’ newest title sponsor, Zurich Insurance. In addition to the new title sponsor, the Classic had a brand new course in the Pete Dye sensation, the TPC Louisiana.
The same year, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Even so, in 2006, the Fore!Kids Foundation was able to successfully host the first major, nationally televised professional sporting event to return to New Orleans: The Zurich Classic. The 2006 tournament enabled the Fore!Kids Foundation to showcase all the things quintessentially New Orleans and generated more than $2 million for children’s services organizations the foundation helps to support. 2006 culminated with the foundation being awarded a $1 million grant from the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund.
In 2008, Zurich Insurance extended their title sponsorship for an additional two years. 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 and in 2018 another seven-year extension.
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 (also known as alternate shot) 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.
Thanks to Zurich’s commitment, the Zurich Classic generates much-needed funds for the city of New Orleans and communities through southeastern Louisiana. The Zurich Classic has generated more than $24.5 million for New Orleans charities since 2005, helping them provide education, healthcare and hope to more than 200,000 children a year. Since 1958, the nonprofit Fore!Kids Foundation has raised over $30 million from the Zurich Classic and other events.
In 2018, Billy Horschel became the first player to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans as an individual and as part of a team with partner Scott Piercy. Horschel and Piercy closed with a bogey-free 5-under 67 in alternate-shot play to secure the victory.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. But Zurich came through with the funding that a typical year’s tournament would generate – over $1.5 million – to help ensure children and families would receive support in a time of tremendous need.
The Zurich Classic returns in 2021 to TPC Louisiana. A competitive field includes Zurich golf ambassador veterans Horschel and Justin Rose along with Zurich’s newest golf ambassador Collin Morikawa, playing in his first Classic. All will play with partners, adding an exciting element of collaboration to the competition.