Legendary professional golf champion Jack Nicklaus, a name synonymous with the sport of golf who is equally known as a golf course designer, philanthropist and goodwill ambassador – will be the featured speaker at the West Michigan Sports Commission’s annual event Tuesday, June 23 at 5 p.m. at DeVos Place’s Steelcase Ballroom, 303 Monroe Ave. NW.
Similar to past West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) annual events, “An Evening with Jack Nicklaus” serves as both a fundraiser and progress report on the success of the organization in attracting and hosting youth and amateur sporting events to enhance the region’s economy and quality of life. Unique this year, the event is a dinner program with live auction instead of a luncheon, and all event proceeds will be divided evenly between the WMSC and two of Nicklaus’ charities – the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation (supporting pediatric hospitals across the country, including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital) and Folds of Honor through Nicklaus’ newest local golf course design project, American Dunes Golf Club.
“Jack Nicklaus is a sports icon and legend who we are thrilled to welcome back to the Grand Rapids area. His many achievements now extend into philanthropy,” said Mike Guswiler, president of the West Michigan Sports Commission. “We hope that the larger event venue allows space not just for WMSC friends and golf enthusiasts, but for those who support his important causes that help everyone from sick children to U.S. veterans.”
The first professional golfer to speak at a WMSC annual event, Nicklaus is coordinating his West Michigan trip in conjunction with his work in developing the new American Dunes Golf Club in Grand Haven scheduled to open Memorial Weekend with its first nine holes. Opening in 1965 as the Grand Haven Golf Club, it was purchased by Dr. John Rooney in 1998. Twenty years later, his son, Major Dan Rooney, met with Nicklaus and told him of his vision to transform the course and preserve the birthplace of his nonprofit, Folds of Honor, that he started in 2007 to provide educational scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled service members.
Nicklaus agreed to come on board with his golf course design firm Nicklaus Design to redesign it as a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course – reopening as American Dunes Golf Club to pay tribute to the United States military. Rooney’s vision is that the course will serve as a tribute to U.S. military men and women and a safe haven for veterans who find rehabilitation through the recreation of golf. The course also is intended to raise awareness and donations for Folds of Honor.
Nicklaus’ competitive golf career spanned six decades, with 120 professional tournament victories worldwide and a record 18 professional major championship titles (six Masters, five PGA Championships, four U.S. Opens, three British Opens). He also is one of only five golfers who have won all four of golf's modern majors (referred to as the career “Grand Slam”). A five-time winner of the PGA Player of the Year Award and the PGA Tour’s leading money-winner eight times and runner-up six times, Nicklaus was named “Individual Male Athlete of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and one of the “10 Greatest Athletes of the Century” by ESPN.
Doors open at 5 p.m., and the evening’s activities begin at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, including a VIP meet-and-greet with Nicklaus for ticketed-only sponsors from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., concluding with a dinner program and live auction from 7 to 9 p.m. The live auction will feature a variety of unique and golf-themed items, including a golf foursome at one of Nicklaus’ Florida courses, followed by lunch with Nicklaus.
Individual seats to the event are $250, and tickets can be purchased at westmisports.com/annual-gala-event (click the “get tickets” button), or by calling (616) 608-1850. A table of eight begins at $2,000, with sponsorship opportunities at a variety of levels and benefits – including tickets to a VIP meet-and-greet with Nicklaus an hour before the dinner portion of the evening. Event information, including sponsorship details, is at westmisports.com/annual-gala-event.
About the West Michigan Sports Commission - The non-profit West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) identifies, secures and hosts youth and amateur sporting events to positively impact the economy and quality of life in the region. Since its inception in 2007, the WMSC has booked 833 events attracting more than 1.4 million athletes and visitors, generating almost $400 million in direct visitor spending. Visit westmisports.com, Facebook.com/WestMichiganSportsCommission and @westmisports on Twitter and Instagram for more information.
About Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation - Jack and Barbara Nicklaus founded the nonprofit Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation in 2004 in an effort to provide families access to world-class pediatric health care in their own communities. Collaborating with Nicklaus Children's Hospital and pediatric hospitals across the country (including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital), the foundation has made a tremendous impact by supporting innovative programs focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of childhood illnesses. For more information, visit nchcf.org.
About Folds of Honor - Folds of Honor is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization that provides educational scholarships to the families of military men and women who have fallen or been disabled while on active duty in the United States armed forces. Folds of Honor educational scholarships support private educational tuition and tutoring for children in grades K-12, as well as higher education tuition assistance for spouses and dependents. Founded in 2007 by Major Dan Rooney, a PGA Professional and F-16 fighter pilot in the Air Force Reserves who served three tours of duty in Iraq, Folds of Honor has awarded more than 20,000 scholarships in all 50 states and some U.S. territories. For more information, visit foldsofhonor.org.