Principal Charity Classic

The Principal Charity Classic (PCC) is a golf tournament on the Champions Tour, a 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, Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Fred Couples, Tom Watson, Jay Haas, Tom Kite, Kenny Perry, Craig Stadler, Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Hale Irwin, Frank “Fuzzy” Zoeller,  Bernhard Langer, 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, then 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. Perhaps even more impressively, 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 advance to finish as runner-ups to eventual champions Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas. To complicate matters further, the Dolphins had a new man in charge: Bill Parcells. According to published reports at the time, Coach 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 a variety of reasons. It’s worth noting that no celebrity has ever been paid an appearance fee of any kind by the PCC, but this arrangement does subject their participation to late 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 on a couple of occasions during the time 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 Draw Party and Pro-Am. (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 at the Grand Californian Hotel in Disneyland. The winning bid was nearly $20,000 with all the proceeds going to support the PCC’s charities. Teri was a truly great sport throughout her short but memorable 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 on Memorial Day, just one night before the Draw Party, and she informed me that Michael was experiencing serious back problems. A plane trip under the circumstances was problematic enough, so any thought of a golf game was now entirely out of the question. I contacted my old friend at ESPN, George Bodenheimer (see the “George Bodenheimer” Winner’s Profile). In the span of an hour, we had worked out the details 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 has gone on to become famous with professional and college hockey fans for his hosting of the #Buccigrossovertimechallenge on Twitter. It was fun to welcome Bucci back to Iowa in June 2019 when he played as my partner in the annual Des Moines Golf and Country Club’s annual member/guest tournament.

2012 – Chris Harrison. Chris is someone that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing regularly at affiliate meetings, the ESPYs Golf Classic and other events since 2004. We had extended invitations 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 BachelorThe Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise on ABC. He has also hosted the Miss America Pageant and syndicated version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. He had a really fun time playing in the PCC Pro-Am as he was presented throughout his round with flowers from young ladies asking: “Chris, will you accept this rose?”

The Principal Charity Classic is a WINNER for the way it succeeds in its mission to raise dollars for local children’s charities. It was yet another record-breaking year in 2019 when over $5.7 million was raised. The PCC has now awarded nearly $23 Million to local arts, culture, health and human services organizations supporting kids since 2007. These six outstanding organizations – WINNERS all – are dedicated to serving children in the community and they are the beneficiaries of the tournament’s good work:

*Blank Children’s Hospital
*Bravo Greater Des Moines
*Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
*MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center
*United Way of Central Iowa
*Variety-The Children’s Charity of Iowa

Last Updated: December 13, 2019