Walt Disney World Resort’s Magnolia and Palm golf courses host the Children’s MiracleNetwork Hospitals Classic, including the Wine & Dine Walk, which benefits Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and its miracle children.
Within months of opening its theme-park gates in the fall of 1971, Walt Disney World welcomed the country’s best golfers to participate in the area’s first PGA Tour tournament. Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus won the title the first three years, propelling the tournament to a status of prestige on the professional golf stage.
After 40 consecutive years, this world-class event continues to draw golf’s best and brightest players to Central Florida.
Historically, the tournament has served a dual purpose — showcasing professional golfers as they vie for a PGA victory and supporting a worthy charitable cause. This year, as it has been for the past four, Children’s Miracle
Network Hospitals is the title sponsor of the tournament, which will take place Oct. 17 through Oct. 23.
CMNH supports a network of 170 children’s hospitals throughout the country with funds raised at events such as the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.
To date, the nonprofit organization — cofounded by Marie Osmond and her family, John Schneider, Mick Shannon and Joe Lake in 1983 — has raised more than $4.3 billion dollars, which has gone directly to its affiliate hospitals. CMNH member hospitals never withhold treatment for a child because of a lack of insurance or inability to pay. Funds raised by CMNH help to subsidize these medical services, regardless of the children’s conditions or economic statuses. Spread across the nation, hospitals in the network benefit from their local CMNH fundraising events. Central Florida’s ties to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic are Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and Shands Hospital for Children at the University of Florida.
In conjunction with the tournament, CMNH holds an annual celebration, where all 170member hospitals and their sponsors, as well as 50 miracle children representing each state, come together to exchange information and celebrate success stories. An expo will be set up at the tournament, so spectators can learn more about CMNH, and each hole on the course will feature a different miracle child’s story.
“You can’t help but be inspired by some of these kids,” said Kevin Weickel, tournament chairman and head golf professional for Walt Disney Golf.
Appropriately, a designated miracle child ambassador will officially start the tournament on Saturday by hitting a commemorative ball off the first tee.
“We like to say that this child represents all of the kids in America who have ‘made the cut’ by benefiting from the services of CMNH,” Weickel said.
Ticket prices are purposely kept low to attract as many people as possible to the seven-day event. One-day general admission is $10, and children age 17 and younger are free with a paying adult; parking is complimentary, and shuttles will transport guests to the golf courses free of charge.
“We want to remove any barriers people may have to coming to the event,” Weickel said.
The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic will be played on Disney’s two PGA-sanctioned courses — Disney’s Magnolia and Palm, which were both designed by Joe Lee— and the tournament will be televised on the Golf Channel. Though cameras and video cameras are not allowed Thursday through Sunday, the use of cellphones will be permitted, with restrictions.
Since the tournament is the final event on the PGA schedule, it holds great significance to the field of 128 pros, as they take this last opportunity to attain coveted spots on the money list, which will determine their qualification status for next year’s PGA Tour. Amateur golfers also have an incentive to participate in the
tournament, since they have the opportunity to pair with two different professionals during the Pro/Am rounds that will take place Thursday and Friday.
“This is a great way for amateur golfers to interact with the professionals and gain valuable tips,” Weickel said.
In an effort to encourage families to attend, tournament organizers have designated kid zones on holes 1, 9, 10 and 14 through 18. Younger golf enthusiasts get a front-row vantage and are able to interact with the pros as they pass by.
Food and beverages go hand-in-hand with most sporting events; however, generally, selections are limited to hot dogs and beer. But true to Disney fashion, the bar was raised for the tournament. A Wine & Dine Walk will host five Walt Disney World Resort restaurants that will feature signature dishes at two culinary stations, as well as wine and beer. For an additional price, spectators can sample offerings like lobster rolls, crab cakes, bratwurst, barbecue pulled pork, buffalo sliders, chopped Greek salad, and chicken or shrimp, with a choice of mild or spicy curry sauce, just to name a few.
“Even if you don’t know anything about golf, come out and have a great lunch,” Weickel said.
Weekends can be sacred to football fanatics, so organizers have arranged for an on-site Jumbotron to broadcast select games during the weekend. Therefore, fans will not have to choose between attending this world-class golfing event or watching their favorite football teams.
Golf courses are frequently referred to as outdoor conference rooms, where business deals are struck, professional relationships are forged, and customer service is extended. The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic serves as an ideal networking opportunity in a number of ways, regardless of one’s budget.
Companies can take advantage of hospitality packages, which grant them access to CMNH’s hospitality tent on the 18th green, 10 Connection Zone passes per day, 40 Wine & Dine passports, 10 one-day tickets, five weekly tournament badges, one message on the Jumbotron rotation, the company logo/listing on the Connection Zone Sponsor Board, and the company logo/listing on the Connection Zone ad in tournament-pairings guides.
CMNH and Disney Golf also are reaching out to other charitable organizations by extending a ticket-sales fundraising opportunity. Nonprofit organizations are able to keep all proceeds from general admission tickets that they sell to use toward their own causes. That may seem like a conflict of interest; however, according to Weickel, the ultimate purpose is to bring awareness to CMNH.
“It is more important to have as many people as possible attend the event, so they can find out about CMNH,” he said. “And if we can do that by partnering with other charities, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
“We are putting on a show for Central Florida and encouraging folks to come out. For an incredibly reasonable ticket price, people get an opportunity to watch their favorite PGA player, facilitate business opportunities, sample great food and wine, or just spend a day with family and friends in a beautiful setting, all while supporting a very worthwhile cause.”
For more information about the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, visit www.cmnhospitalsclassic.com on the Web.
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