By Steve Rivera –
Continuing a Tradition of Golf and Charity
If the Cologuard Classic doesn’t have a slogan, well, here is a suggestion: “It’s more than golf.”
Of course, it is.
But during the week of Feb. 25-March 3, it’s a plethora of activities to appeal to most everyone.
There’s unbeatable Southern Arizona weather, the locals’ excitement for their event, the weeklong party, a Friday-night concert by country artist LOCASH, raising awareness for a dreaded disease (colon cancer) that can be easily detected, and, well, of course golf by some of yesteryear’s favorites and still-notable stars.
That’s a lot. Golf just happens to be part of the party that brings in an estimated $25 million into the local economy.
“There’s a little something for everybody,” said Judy McDermott, president of the Tucson Conquistadores, which will once again support the PGA Tour by operating the event. “Anyone can come to the tournament – whether you’re a diehard golf fan or not. You can walk and follow the players and not have to fight a crowd. Or you can sit in the hospitality tent and maximize the fun, maybe enjoying the 16th hole, par three. It’s a lot of fun.”
That’s what it’s all intended to be for all involved – although it also is competitive for the 78-player field that competes for a share of a $1.7 million purse of which $255,000 and 255 Charles Schwab Cup points go to the winner.
The event, now in its second year, is a no-cut, three-day format with a popular two-day pro-am going Wednesday and Thursday. Big names are expected, including the always-popular John Daly. Also scheduled to return is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who made an appearance for the pro-am and was popular and available to fans.
Last year’s event was a resounding success, where more than 40,000 fans – golf and more – visited Omni Tucson National Resort and helped raise more than half a million dollars to assist the Conquistadores in helping local youth athletic programs.
Since 1962, the Conquistadores have raised more than $60 million for local charities assisting youth sports.
When all was said and done after last year’s event – after the wrap-up meeting occurred – there were plenty of high-fives and congratulations in the meetings. And they pulled it off with just 100 days knowing Exact Science’s Cologuard was on board as a sponsor.
“What Cologuard did was give a mental boost to our whole organization for professional golf and the Tucson Conquistadores,” McDermott said. “If we didn’t have the golf tournament, how would we fund the charities?
“We’re all about keeping professional golf here in Tucson.”
Keeping it here and flourishing means making it better and better every year. After last year’s success, all involved quickly brainstormed the big-time concert where if you purchase a ticket to the Friday’s golf you will also get the concert – a win-win.
“We recognize that not everyone in Tucson is a golf fan,” said Bryan Goettel, senior manager of Cologaurd public relations. “But we are really committed and want to demonstrate that this is much more than golf. I would encourage those who are not golf fans to experience the tournament and they will see it’s much more than golf.”
To Cologuard, it’s about raising awareness to get screened for colon cancer. And it fits right in the wheelhouse of those participating – at least the age group of the 50-years-and-older crowd.
“Cancer isn’t talked about enough – and this is the second-leading cancer killer for men and women in the United States,” Geottel said. “We are very fortunate to have found a tremendous partner in Tucson and the PGA to have a platform to create awareness and hopefully make a difference to fight against this disease.”
It helps to have golfer Jerry Kelly on board. In 2017, Kelly teamed up with Cologuard makers Exact Sciences to help raise awareness of colon cancer and the importance of regular screening at age 50.
“The thing that struck me about the golfers in the event was that they understand and appreciate how fortunate they are to still do this for a living,” Goettel said of the golfers. “For them to recognize and fully appreciate the sponsors who give them the platform to do it was really special to me.
“The icing on the cake was that every single player accepted Jerry Kelly’s challenge of making the promise to get screened for colon cancer. They realize the importance.”
And the importance of passing on the message.
In fact, watching Steve Stricker win the title may not have been the best moment of the 2018 weekend. It may have been seeing Cologuard-user/cancer survivor Brenda Boutin come to the event from Savannah, Georgia.
Boutin and her husband, Jef, went to an event on Saturday and were acknowledged by golfer Tom Lehman.
“Jef looked at me,” Goettel recalled, “and said, ‘This is the coolest experience of our lives.’ To provide that for a survivor and her spouse was very meaningful.”
More than golf, indeed.