This week marks a new beginning for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship as now the event will feature players who finished in the top-120 on the Korn Ferry Tour points list teeing it up at the Ohio State University Golf Club’s Scarlet Course.
The field includes all of the top 30 who are currently projected to earn PGA Tour membership for the 2024 season, a race currently led by Ben Kohles.
“We’re extremely excited and hopefully everybody else is too,” tournament director Kip McBride explained at the tournament’s August media day. “We’re in the perfect time of year for some of the best golf you’ll see on any tour this year.
“The Scarlet is probably in its prime condition in mid-to-late September. We’re excited for the format change. We’re going to have 120 Korn Ferry guys fighting for 30 spots coming down to the wire. If you look at our past guys that have come through here, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas you’re going to see them before they come on the PGA Tour.”
Also among those in the field are the 2012 champion Kohles, 2020 champion Curtis Luck, Camilo Villegas, Grayson Murray and previous Jack Nicklaus Award winners Chris Gotterup, John VanDerLaan and Norman Xiong.
This is the first time since 2013 on the Korn Ferry Tour that there are not separate point standings for pre-Finals and Finals events, but rather a cumulative-standings structure.
In the last several seasons, the event was a competition for PGA Tour cards and also included those who placed 126-200 in the FedExCup points standings.
After last week’s Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation, the total field was down to 120 players and after this event will be the last event on the Korn Ferry Tour, the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance. That field will feature 75 golfers.
The Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship will feature $1.5 million purses and award 600 points to the winner.
As far as enticing fans goes, it is quite simple to watch your favorite golfer in the field because tickets will be free to all who attend. There is a caveat attached to that because all who get a ticket can assign a designated charity $10, a way to give back to other charities in the community in addition to Nationwide Children’s.
The Scarlet Course appeared to be in optimal condition during the media day, despite some rain accumulation with McBride licking his chops at how the course would only improve in the days leading up to the tournament.
“When Jack (Nicklaus) did the (2005) redesign it became one of the hardest courses they play but they love it because it’s a very true golf course,” remarked McBride. “The greens putt true; you’ve got to be on your game to win this tournament. A lot of times we’ve gone down to the very end.”
Of course, the aforementioned charitable aspect is what drives a tournament which has raised $22.3 million towards pediatric cancer, $3.3 million of which came from last year’s event.
In 2007, when the event started, the goal to get to $1 million to Nationwide Children’s. The first year went well and after a couple of years, that goal was reached.
“The relationship with the hospital has been 60-plus years and to find the stories of these children that have gone through a lot and come out as a success story and been a small part of helping impact their lives is really special,” Nationwide AVP, Sports Marketing Jim McCoy stated. “All of the fundraising that has come of this, raising $22.3 million for pediatric cancer has made an impact.”
McCoy has been part of this event for all 17 years and even he admits that he had no idea the event would turn into what it has.
“There’s incredible golf courses all throughout central Ohio and the community we love this and have supported the Memorial for so long,” determined McCoy. “It’s great to have Scarlet right here in upper Arlington to showcase what we can do. It’s a different tour and it’s a different level of access the fans can get.”
Each day has its own special aspect and Tuesday afternoon will have Pros Fore Patients to celebrate the support of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and highlight both past and present Patient Champions who will meet and interact with Korn Ferry Tour players in a number of different activities and then pay everything by creating care packages which will be delivered to inpatients at the hospital.
There will be plenty of incentives for fans in attendance as well in addition to the $10 charitable donation.
This includes daily activities where the 13th hole features a Birdie Time is Miller Time, which features the par-3 221-yard hole and drink specials each time there is a birdie. There also is a Play Yellow Putting Challenge located on the practice green from 11-4, in addition to several food trucks located around the 13th hole.
Another annual tradition is the First Shot to Fight Cancer which occurs at 7:05 Thursday morning and features a Patient Champion teeing off just prior to the first tee time.
Saturday also features free Graeter’s Ice Cream, while Sunday has a free pancake breakfast.
“I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up,” McBridge said. “It’s so pleasing at the end of the day all of our efforts in giving that money to Nationwide Children’s, you go down and see how lucky we are to have that hospital in this town and for us to give as much as we can.
“It’s the best job in the world.”