2008 Zurich Classic of New Orleans could be most competitive ever as support for region's renewal continues
This year's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, which begins on March 27, promises to be one of the most competitive yet as four of the PGA TOUR's top 10 players – Steve Stricker, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk and Padraig Harrington – are committed to compete in the Crescent City for the $1.1 million first prize.
As always, the Zurich Classic will have a positive impact on the New Orleans community. When Zurich assumed sponsorship of the tournament in 2005, a new bond between Zurich and the local community was formed through the tournament's support of the charities of the Fore!Kids Foundation.
In addition to money raised by the tournament, in 2007 an additional $400,000 was raised through the "Birdies for Books" program when Zurich and others pledged money to Gulf Coast-area school libraries for every birdie made during the Zurich Classic.
This year, Zurich will make a separate donation of 10,000 books to help restore local elementary school libraries in the Orleans and Jefferson parishes. In addition, Zurich will make a donation of educational films and DVD players/monitors to more than 75 Orleans and Jefferson parish high schools. The film series was produced by the Farmers Insurance Group, a Zurich Financial Services Group subsidiary.
Zurich's business relationship with the region was underscored by Hurricane Katrina, which struck just months after the 2005 Zurich Classic. Zurich has since become a highly regarded part of the area's revitalization and, true to our commitments, Zurich and Farmers quickly settled thousands of Katrina-related claims, including Tulane University and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center – two vital economic engines in the region. Fittingly, the first major professional sporting event played in the area post-Katrina was the Zurich Classic in April 2006.
The Zurich Classic was one of the first indications that "the swing is back" in New Orleans. As far as professional sports are concerned, no other event has roots as deep as the PGA TOUR in the region. Although the first Zurich Classic was played in 2005, the tournament was then celebrating its 47th year of championships under the direction of the Fore!Kids Foundation. Fore!Kids' charter ensures that the proceeds from the tournament are directed to the charities that help meet the needs of children in the region.
The 2008 tournament marks the 50th anniversary of the Fore!Kids Foundation's support of this tournament. Since 1958, more than $16 million has been raised to provide healthcare, education, recreation and hope for more than one million children.
Zurich Classic timeline
April 2005: Tim Petrovic wins the first Zurich Classic in the inaugural event at the new TPC Louisiana course.
August 2005: Hurricane Katrina
April 2006: Chris Couch wins the second Zurich Classic at the first major sporting event in New Orleans since Katrina.
April 2007: Nick Watney wins the third Zurich Classic, which includes the "Birdies for Books" charity effort that raises $400,000 for area school libraries.