The Principal Charity Classic (PCC) is a golf tournament on the Champions Tour, a golf tour run by the PGA Tour for golfers 50 years of age and older. Many of the PGA Tour’s biggest names have gone on to play on the Champions Tour: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Jay Haas, Tom Kite, Kenny Perry, Craig Stadler, Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Hale Irwin, Frank “Fuzzy” Zoeller, and so many other golf legends. Since 2007, the tour stop in Des Moines has been fortunate to have the Principal Financial Group as its title sponsor, and Wells Fargo as the presenting sponsor. It was a great privilege to serve on the PCC executive board from 2008-14. My primary focus was to arrange for the participation of celebrities in the PCC Pro-Am event which always precedes the 54-hole professional tournament. Some of these celebrities have included:
2007 – Rob Lowe. Rob had a recurring role on the ABC hit drama Brothers & Sisters during the 2006-07 television season. Steve McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment, happened to mention to me on a call that he was about to sign Rob to a deal making him a primary member of the Brothers & Sisters cast. I only half-jokingly suggested to Steve that he make the deal contingent on Rob agreeing to play golf in the PCC Pro-Am. It worked! See the “Rob Lowe WINNER’s Profile” for more on what happened next.
2008 – Jason Taylor. Jason is best known as a former star defensive end for the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League (NFL). He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2006. But more impressive to me is the fact that Jason was honored with the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2007, the only NFL honor that recognizes both on-field achievements and off-the-field contributions. Upon learning that Jason would join the season six cast of Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) in March of 2008, I immediately extended an invitation for him to play in that year’s PCC Pro-Am. What neither of us anticipated is that he and his partner, Edyta Sliwinska, would actually finish as runner-ups to eventual champions Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas. Further complicating matters, the Dolphins had a new man in charge: Bill Parcells. According to published reports at the time, Parcells was upset that his star defensive player was missing OTA’s because of the DWTS commitment. The notion that Jason would be stopping in Des Moines to play golf en route to his home in Miami only added to Parcells’ anger. Jason was under enormous pressure to cancel his PCC appearance. After lengthy discussions with both Jason and his agent, Gary Wichard, it was agreed that Jason would honor the commitment they’d made several months earlier. It meant arranging for Jason and his family, a nanny, and the family dog to fly via a private jet from Los Angeles to Des Moines and then on home to Miami, but it all worked out! (Gary Wichard was a well-known sports agent who served as the inspiration for the movie Jerry Maguire; sadly, he died less than 3 years later after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer –Ed.) Jason was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August, 2017.
2009 – Michael J. Fox. Several big names had indicated their willingness to play in our Pro-Am, only to back out for valid reasons. It’s worth noting that no celebrity has ever been paid an appearance fee of any kind by the PCC which subjects their participation to last minute changes. Such was the case in 2009 as we were scrambling to find a last-minute substitute. Michael was about to release a new book with the title “Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist” and it was being published by Hyperion Books. ABC and Hyperion, both divisions of the Walt Disney Company, worked in tandem to produce a May Sweeps primetime special by the same name. It was a wonderful program and included a feature segment of Michael playing golf with actor/comedian Bill Murray. Bingo! I had met Michael during the time that his series from many years earlier, Spin City, was on ABC. In less than 24 hours after the special had aired, Michael agreed to be our honorary guest at the PCC. See the “Michael J. Fox WINNER’s Profile” for more on his appearance.
2010 – Teri Hatcher. Michael J. Fox is a tough act to follow, but Teri was more than up to the task. I met the Desperate Housewives star for the first time in 2006 following the Upfront at The Lincoln Center in New York City, then again in 2007 at the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press Tour in Los Angeles. But it was at a poolside reception at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in 2010 where I coaxed her into making a PCC appearance. Teri expressed concern that her golf swing was a bit rusty; I assured her “swing” would be just fine to all those in the gallery. At the Pro-Am Draw Party the night before she played, Teri graciously offered to host a private dinner for up to 8 guests at Napa Rose, her favorite restaurant which is located in the Grand Californian Hotel (Disneyland); the winning bid for charity was nearly $20,000. She was a truly great sport throughout her Iowa stay.
2011 – John Buccigross. While buttoning up celebrity commitments at the last minute was the norm, this year topped them all. Michael J. Fox had such a great time in 2009 that he agreed to make a return visit. It was just oh so easy, or so we thought. I received an unexpected phone call around 7pm on Memorial Day from his assistant, Nina. It was the night before the day of the Draw Party and she informed me that Michael was experiencing serious back problems. Given that he could hardly stand up, a plane trip was problematic enough; the thought of a golf game was entirely out of the question. So I contacted my old friend at ESPN, George Bodenheimer. In the span of an hour, we had it worked out for SportsCenter anchor John Buccigross to pinch hit for Michael. Bucci is an avid golfer with a single-digit handicap. More importantly, he is a world-class guy who made a great impression during his stay. John would become famous with NHL hockey fans in the years to follow for his hosting of the #Buccigrossovertimechallenge on Twitter.
2012 – Chris Harrison. Chris is someone that I’ve seen regularly at affiliate meetings and the ESPYs Golf Classic since 2004. We had extended invites to him on several occasions to play in our Pro-Am through the years. This was the year we made it happen! Chris is certainly best known for his role as host of the The Bachelor and its spin-off, The Bachelorette, on ABC. He has also hosted the Miss America Pageant on a regular basis since 2005. He had a really fun time during his round in the PCC Pro-Am as he was presented throughout it with roses by young ladies asking: “Chris, will you accept this rose?”
The Principal Charity Classic is a WINNER whose mission is all about raising dollars for local children’s charities. Under the “FORE Our Kids” banner, it has awarded nearly $10 Million since 2007 to local arts, culture, health and human services organizations supporting kids. These six outstanding organizations – WINNERS all – are dedicated to serving children in the community and they benefit from the net proceeds:
*Blank Children’s Hospital
*Bravo Greater Des Moines
*Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
*Mercy Medical Center
*United Way of Central Iowa
*Variety-The Children’s Charity of Iowa