The players, fans and volunteers change from year to year at the Toshiba
Classic at Newport Beach Country Club, while the PGA Champions Tour has
touched generations in its length of time at one location.
As the world’s greatest 50-and-older golfers tee it up this weekend,
the one mainstay is the lead charity – Hoag Hospital.
Hoag has operated the Toshiba Classic since 1998, and the event has been
played at Newport Beach every year except the inaugural tournament in
1995 at Mesa Verde Country Club in Costa Mesa. This year the Toshiba Classic
will be played in the fall for the first time, skipping the March slot
on the calendar after two decades.
It will also be the first time the event is played during drought-stricken,
state-mandated water restrictions.
This year’s 21st Toshiba Classic is the second-to-last stop on the
Champions Tour, ushering in the player points-culmination season-finale
Charles Schwab Championship in Arizona.
But whatever time of year PGA Tour officials decide to schedule the Toshiba
Classic, the event, which has raised more $1 million each year since 1999
for various charities, will be steered by a nonprofit that many view as
the most important venue in our community.
“Hey, let’s face it (a volunteer, sponsor or donor), might
have to be there at Hoag Hospital one day,” former tour golfer Bruce
Summerhays once said of the explanation behind the event’s army
of supporters and volunteers, which has allowed the Toshiba Classic to
become the most philanthropic event on the Champions Tour.
Hoag took over as managing operator of the event following an acrimonious
split, after the 1997 tournament, between the event’s managing operator
and the former owner of the country club.
While the Toshiba Classic will be celebrating its 21st year, it is only
the 18th with Hoag as the managing operator and Jeff Purser as tournament
director. An Ohio State graduate, Purser served as tournament director
of another event when the tour asked him to assume tournament director
duties at Newport Beach. The tournament has generated almost $18 million
to benefit Hoag and other charities in the previous 17 years.
But long before the Toshiba Classic became a pillar of success, there was
some question about whether the event would even remain after three tournaments.
That’s because the former country club owner issued a statement
to the tour saying it would no longer host the event if the same managing
operator continued to work the tournament.
The tour and its players have always loved Newport Beach Country Club and
its easy-to-walk layout. It has often been described as the perfect 50-and-over
and spectator-friendly golf course. The tour wanted to keep the Toshiba
Classic at Newport Beach, but the former managing operator, International
Sports and Event Management (ISM), wasn’t going away without a fight.
After all, ISM founder Bob Neely was responsible for putting Toshiba together
with the tour.
However, disputes between ISM and the country club eventually forced the
Tour’ to find another lead charity to manage the event, and Hoag
Hospital entered the picture. Hoag arrived with key ingredients to operate
a golf tournament to the tour’s specifications – a large network
of volunteers who were committed to Hoag and had already been managing
a highly successful, 23-year-old pro-am co-founded by the late Bing Crosby.
The committee of Hoag volunteers ended what later became the Taco Bell
Newport Classic Pro-Am and poured their heart and soul into the Toshiba Classic.
Proceeds from the 2015 Toshiba Classic will benefit the Mary & Dick
Allen Diabetes Center at Hoag, which provides services for those with
or at risk for diabetes regardless of their ability to pay.
Richard Dunn is a sports writer who lives in Newport Beach. He’s
also a coach of multiple sports and a former professional baseball player.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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