Dublin, OH — Nationwide Associate Vice President of Sports Marketing and Sponsorships Jim McCoy loves the entire Memorial Tournament week, but it is one day by far which brings the biggest smile to his face, Wednesday.
“Being able to continue to build that, yes the tournament begins Monday, but Wednesday is a really big moment for us around the pro-am,” he said. “We are entertaining guests, but we’re also bringing some talent for the fans to come see. We have five different individuals that fans can get up close and personal and also bring out eight patient-champions from the hospital to celebrate their story and give more visibility to the hospital.”
This year, five individuals will play in the official Tournament Pro-Am, the Nationwide Invitational at the Memorial, which will highlight the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Patient Champion Program.
Two-time Super Bowl champion, quarterback Peyton Manning will tee it up for a fourth time and be joined by Jason Taylor and Kyle Rudolph. Additionally Indy Car Series driver Graham Rahal and former Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer will compete in the pro-am as guests of Nationwide. Meyer owns a home overlooking Muirfield Village Golf Club’s seventh green.
Nationwide has sponsored the Memorial Tournament since 2011 and also serves as the presenting sponsor for the aforementioned Walter Payton Man of the Year Award which recognizes a player’s work in the community.
Both Manning and Taylor were previous Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winners, while Rudolph was a 2018 nominee.
Last year, Manning teed it up as did NFL Hall of Famer LaDanian Tomlinson and Anthony Muñoz, as did current Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, the latter trio was paired with PGA TOUR player Pat Perez, while the former Indianapolis Colt and Denver Bronco had Tiger Woods as a playing partner.
“You have one sport where you are wearing a helmet and people are in the stands watching the game,” Tomlinson stated after last year’s event. “Here they lined up on the fairway and you just don’t want to hit anyone. The nerves are a little bit more prevalent when you are playing golf.”
Though fans will be expected to flock Muirfield Village with some of the above names as an added incentive, the day is truly about the eight patient champions, who will great pros and the five Nationwide guests on both the first and 10th holes, while meeting tournament host and founder Jack Nicklaus has also occurred in the past.
Last year, patient champion, Emmeclaire got to meet Perez, the football-playing trio and Tony Finau, while also having the opportunity to pose for pictures with each. Smiles were plenty on the 10th hole tee box.
“They’ve been through so much and to have them come out for a special day inside the ropes, just makes it all worth while,” said McCoy. “The hospital has done so much for them and they and their families have been through so much, they can come back out here and think of other things. It’s great to put that all together and give them a great experience.”
For these patient champions, this is not just a special day, but perhaps a chance to be introduced to golf, with the potential for a lifelong love affair.
Three years ago, Kyle Mitchell won the Jack Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award and just completed his freshman season at Marshall University.
“The last couple of years our Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award winner has been a golf-oriented individual,” he said. “Kyle Mitchell is actually at Marshall University playing golf has come back and is very involved in the tournament. Each of the patient champions is going to hit a putt on 18 which is awesome and hopefully a way for them to get hooked on a spot that is pretty special.”