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March 12, 2006
PALM BEACH GARDENS, FLORIDA
JAMES CRAMER: Good afternoon everyone. I'm James Cramer, the director of public relations for the PGA TOUR and I'd like to welcome you to today very exciting announcement about the future of Honda Classic. I'd like to begin by introducing some dignitaries that are here with us today. First to my right the Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, Mr. Tim Finchem. To my left, the executive vice president of the auto/sales division of American Honda, Mr. Dick Colliver; Llwyd Ecclestone, chairman of the Ecclestone Group organization; Mrs. Barbara Nicklaus, the chairman of the Children's Healthcare Charity, Incorporated and Gary Nicklaus, president of Children's Healthcare Charity, Incorporated, and, of course, Barbara's husband, Jack. (Laughter). And we have Mr. Ken Kennerly.
I'd like to begin by introducing Commissioner Finchem to make our announcement. Commissioner?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, James. Good afternoon, everyone. I'm delighted to be here for what we think is a terrific announcement for the future of this tournament. I would like to recognize everyone that's here and members of the board that are here. Mr. Mayor, we appreciate your being here. I know that Joe Steranka, the CEO of the PGA of America is going to be on this board as well, and I'm sorry he could not be here tonight but we appreciate his commitment.
In a nutshell, we're announcing the future of the tournament, and really the new Honda Classic. We've had a wonderful run with our partner, Honda, now for a quarter of a century. Over the years, the Honda Classic has become a fixture on the PGA TOUR, a major piece of what we refer to as the Florida Swing sometimes, and a tournament that the players and all of our sponsors appreciate.
However, today's announcement about the future of this tournament paves the way for a new direction and one that's very exciting. First of all, I want to congratulate American Honda and Dick Colliver and his team for committing to an extension of their sponsorship for another six year period, starting in 2007 for that extension all the way through 2012. So the continuity that has been a hallmark of this tournament over the last 25 years will continue for another six years, and that sets the base for everything else we're going to announce.
Secondly, I'd like to announce that the new host organization for the Honda Classic will be the Children's Healthcare Charity with a newly formed board chaired by Barbara Nicklaus. Barbara is generally referred to in golf circles as "the First Lady" of the game, and indeed she is that. It's just terrific that Barbara would lend her name, her reputation, and as we all know, her energy to helping kids through this newly formed host organization.
I'd like to also announce formally, it's been reported that the new host site for the Honda Classic will be the PGA National's Champion Course. All of you are familiar with this golf course right here. I'd like to thank Llwyd Ecclestone and his management team for their commitment to not only making the golf course available for the Honda Classic, but to put it in the condition that it will need to be to have the first class event that we want this championship to be.
We recognize that this golf course designed by the Fazio brothers years ago has undergone significant renovation in recent years at the direction of the Nicklaus organization, and we're very pleased with being able to bring the best players in the world back to this particular venue.
Lastly, I want to just say that as we look forward with the new direction of this tournament, we can be positive in our outlook in the sense that we think next year over a million dollars will be raised for the new host organization to help kids, and really this tournament then takes a major step in having the kind of impact that many of our tournaments have on the PGA TOUR.
Let me just conclude by saying this. If you look down the list of the individuals who have committed themselves to the board of this foundation and you consider the quality of our sponsorship, the quality of the golf course, and the kind of people who are now involved in this tournament: Ken Kennerly is going to be just an outstanding tournament director; having the PGA of America through their representation of Joe Steranka involved, and the Nicklaus family as well, there is just decades and decades and decades of experience of how to manage quality, professional golf tournaments, now committed to the future of this tournament.
When you combine that with the fact that the tournament will now be totally integrated to the community here, the community leaders both in the public sector and the business sector becoming involved in a way that they never have in the past, those two things tell us that we're going to have an outstanding tournament.
The new date will be starting next year will be the last week's date. The Honda Classic will kick off the Florida Swing, which historically has been a great date from a field standpoint, and we anticipate that with this golf course and that date and this organization, we will have by all accounts just a first class, charitably oriented tournament. Thank you very much.
JAMES CRAMER: Thank you, Commissioner. I'd now like to introduce Mr. Dick Colliver to say a few words on behalf of Honda, our sponsor.
DICK COLLIVER: Thank you very much, and Tim, thanks for those kind words.
Honda is really delighted to be involved in this tournament. We've been involved like Tim said for 25 years. Our six year commitment I think indicates our dedication to the PGA TOUR and now to PGA National, and having the Nicklaus family join us on the board is very special for us. This is something that I think Tim can remember several years that we've been talking about, how do we find a permanent home for this tournament and to build a relationship with the community.
One thing that American Honda prides itself on is the fact that Honda worldwide builds cars where we sell them, and the cars that are sold here in the United States are manufactured in the United States. We'd like to be involved in events in the community and to give back to those events and all of the events, charitable events that we're involved in; we strive to give back to the communities. We have a lot of pride, we have a lot of our associates that get involved with these events around the country and give back their time to make sure that they are successful.
We are really looking forward to what we call the "new" Honda Classic. That little thing came up in a meeting we had with Henry Hughes a little bit a couple weeks ago that we thought we were off to a new start with everything coming together, something special for us. We're really looking forward to a long term relationship with the PGA TOUR, with PGA National, with the new board and Barbara and Jack, and Gary, we look forward to working together with you and making this a success for the community. Thank you very much.
JAMES CRAMER: Thank you, Mr. Colliver. I'd like to now ask Mr. Ecclestone to say a few comments about PGA National. Mr. Ecclestone?
LLWYD ECCLESTONE: Dick, those are nice thoughts. Obviously we're going beyond six years, I guess, right?
DICK COLLIVER: My plan.
LLOYD ECCLESTONE: My plan, too. Now we're all getting up here in age, I know, except for Gary and Ken, so this might be our we've got probably 12 years before we all retire. You retired yet, Jack? (Laughter).
Anyway, on behalf of our 1,300 members of the PGA National Golf Club, I'm going to take a little license here, and over 13,000 members of the PGA of America and Joe Steranka, who really is our landlord, and then we have 5,300 PGA National homeowners in this development represented here by Bob Hoddon (ph), the president of the POA and of course the 60,000 plus. And Joe, you're growing every minute here in Palm Beach Gardens, who is represented by our mayor, Joe Russo. The whole area is look forward to this tournament here, as well as I am, and welcomes the PGA TOUR, American Honda, the TOUR players, and of course, the new foundation, which I think we're going to blow the socks off everybody here. So it's going to be good for everybody.
So the site of the Honda Classic, I was talking to Dick a little bit, apparently we started discussions six years ago. There's a little difference of opinion as to why it didn't happen, but anyway, it's a dream come true for me. I'm glad we finally got together.
And once we started talking, it happened pretty quickly. We have a long legacy of hosting championships, that's always a question, whether it's a championship or a tournament, but I'm told it's a championship. It started out in 1983 Ryder Cup, captained by a local boy who I remember walking down the 18th fairway with tears streaming down his little cheeks, big cheeks, with a smile on his face because he knew that they were going to win, and they did.
The next was our '87 PGA Championship. John Montgomery I think was the tournament director then. So part of my program here is that everybody knows this place. There's no surprises anywhere around here. And interspersed with our two great championships were the PGA Seniors' Championship, which was held for 18 years, as well as the PGA junior championship, which we also held for 18 years. So we're ready to go back to work, Dick, and it certainly is a wonderful feeling. And I know my staff, we've got about 900 people here in the resort and golf operation, and they are anxious to get their feet wet again.
So I guess we all say thank you to you, Tim, for putting your trust in with us and we will certainly not only please you, but hopefully we'll make you proud.
On a slightly different note, the PGA National Golf Club has turned out more volunteers for golf tournaments than any other club here in the county. For last few years, they drifted to Mirasol, a little bit to Trump, but all thousand of them or more are prepared to come back. Paul Bremer was among them; he ran a seniors tournament for us a few years ago. And we've got the greatest group of volunteers I think in the country. We talked a little bit to Wally, he'll be around as an advisor and all that stuff. But those decisions are now out of my hands.
So playing this championship, of the group we have involved from Ken, who has worked with the property, from Phillip Morris and Paul, Jack, who had a little bit to do with one of the courses we're going to play on, we're going to try and maybe see what we can do to it to make it even better I think it's perfect the way it is, actually, you know.
JACK NICKLAUS: (Laughing.)
LLWYD ECCLESTONE: But everybody knows this place and I think it will make the best Honda Classic ever.
Barbara is a great leader. Michael, who is now out front, you're going to be putting all the pieces together that everybody else throws at you, Michael I'm sorry, Gary. Forgive me. (Laughter). You know, all of those boys, they look generally alike except for Steve. And I've worked with them all. It's going to be a great support team.
So I don't have much else to say except how pleased I am, how pleased I think everybody in Palm Beach County is, everybody's talking about it, that you're coming back here and you're going to stay here in Palm Beach County, and we're pleased to have the facility that will handle such an event. So we're all looking forward to a year from now playing golf and seeing the TV cameras whirl along and everybody smiling. So thanks, all, have a great time, and just enjoy the thinking about it in the future. It will be here sooner than later, sooner than you think. Thank you.
You know, I failed to mention, the captain of the Ryder Cup Team was a local boy, and it was Jack down here, who obviously is the greatest, at least in my opinion, not being a golfer, he's the greatest golfer in the world and I think will ever be. And I was supposed to give this you, Jack, but now I'm recognizing you, and I hope it's a proper recognition, Jack. You probably deserve more than that from me. So I think you'll hear from Gary now.
JAMES CRAMER: Thank you, Mr. Ecclestone. And without further ado, I'd like to introduce Gary Nicklaus, the president of our host organization, Children's Healthcare Charity.
GARY NICKLAUS: Thank you, everybody. The last time I saw a lot most of you people, I was an active member of the PGA TOUR and my fortunes were not so good there and my life made a turn.
But I have made my way back to the PGA TOUR through a different road, this time on the management side of a golf tournament. It's new to me, but I think we've put together a board that has got lots of experience through the years to take this tournament and turn it into what we think can be a premiere tournament on the PGA TOUR. That is our hope. That is what we want to do.
We have a great venue. We have a management team that we think is second to none. We have a new foundation, which has stepped up to take hold of this tournament. We've got the same unwavering support that Honda has had for the PGA TOUR, for this tournament, and this community. So we're really excited about going forward.
My mom asked me to step up and do this a few weeks ago, and, you know, I wasn't real sure at first whether I wanted to do this. I've got a lot of other things going on. But being able to get back and be part of the PGA TOUR and be part of this community and try to build something that really brings value to this community and to be able to help children through the Children's Healthcare Charity and help the Nicklaus Children's Health Foundation through that charity is something that myself and my family really strive to do. We really try to put forth an effort and put back into the community that has meant so much to us and our family.
You know, beyond that, I really don't know what else to say other than I'm really looking forward to being a part of this and looking forward to making this a premiere stop on the PGA TOUR. Without further ado, I'd like to introduce the First Lady of golf, my first lady, the person that molded me and my brothers and sisters into the people that we are, which we like to believe we're pretty good people. Mom, the stage is yours.
BARBARA NICKLAUS: Wow, that may be the nicest introduction I've ever had, thank you, Gary.
But just to tell you all how exciting this day is, when the Honda was moving to this community just for a little background, some of the members of the foundation called me and they said, you know, Barbara, we're moving to Palm Beach Gardens, we've supported children's charities in Fort Lauderdale. If we're moving up to your area, we'd like to be a part of your area and support your area.
Believe it or not, Dick, Honda probably is the reason that we now have the Nicklaus Children's Hospital, because Jack and I had said long ago early in our marriage that if we ever were in a position to help people, we wanted it to be children. So I said to the Honda Foundation, I said, well, that's been a lifelong dream of ours to have a children's hospital in our area. Being the fastest growing community in the United States, it had never had a children's only facility.
So we're just thrilled to be a part of Palm Beach Gardens. Thank you, Joe, and thank you to Honda who has been a big supporter. It's been a favorite tournament of ours for a long time. We looked forward to it every year. I want to thank everyone. I think it's going to be a wonderful event. Everyone is very excited, and I think the new Children's Healthcare Charity Foundation will benefit.
The Nicklaus Children's Healthcare Foundation is very excited. We're new, we're just a couple of years old, and we've just kind of gotten off the ground and the first thing that we've done is to grant the child life institute, which is at Nicklaus Children's Hospital. You know, I guess old cliches, some good comes out of all bad. I know you all know about our tragedy a year ago, and this actually probably jumpstarted our foundation. We feel like we're now in a position to do some wonderful things for healthcare for children in the community, and actually to do something in Jake's name. I think that will be wonderful for the community, and we just have a lot of wonderful ideas on the horizon with Honda and our foundation, and I think it will be a great partnership and we're so looking forward to it.
And one thing, I would like to introduce you just to some of our new foundation board members are here: Paul Bremer and Stephen Vogelsang; if you can have two right hands, they have helped put everything together. They have been wonderful. Paul Bremer, Stephen Vogelsang, Mary Lou Kromer who has joined us; Joe Russo, Mayor of Palm Beach Gardens; Thomas Mayes, Jeff Stoops, John Montgomery, John Hines. So some of our new members and some are here, and Ross Johnson will be a member of the board.
And anyway, we're just very excited and we thank you all for your support and we're ready to support you. And Honda, thank you. Thank you, Llwyd, Ken, Jack.
JAMES CRAMER: Thank you, Mrs. Nicklaus. At this point we have a little bit of time if we have any questions from the media.
Q. Mr. Ecclestone, this tournament has been played at other venues that have wanted to bring this tournament to their place to help sell homes and real estate, and you obviously don't have that as the motivation. Why is it that the PGA National wanted this tournament?
LLWYD ECCLESTONE: Well, as I said, it's easy and I don't want to say easy for us, but it is fairly easy to hold a tournament because of the facilities we have. It doesn't impact our members. It doesn't impact the residents around here because we have four other golf courses. We have a large staff, a very competent staff with David and Bob to make sure what should happen, happens. And the publicity, of course, for the resort will be nice. It will keep the lineage going of our holding the former tournaments and still show that we can still continue on.
Q. Jack, you won this tournament at a different site and then you had some good memories of Ryder Cup, PGA Seniors here, does this represent a little bit of a happy confluence of a couple different areas's in your golfing life?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, when it was down at Inverrary, it was the Jackie Gleason Tournament and I won a few times down there. It transitioned into the Honda, and of course I played the Honda several times.
But the combination of having a golf tournament in our community and one that you want to have be the best you can possibly make it, we felt like I'm delighted that Llwyd is willing to allow us to come here to PGA National and use the facility. I think we have to do a few little things to the golf course to bring it up to date. As you know the last time that we did the golf course, we did it for the PGA Seniors, which we renovated it totally in 1990. Then we held the PGA Seniors here for 18 years. Well, a lot of things have happened in the game in the last 18 years. The golf course, the greens were re grassed in 2002, and I really wasn't involved with that. There wasn't any design changes at that time.
But now we need to go back out, and Llwyd and I have talked about it, what we want to do so I can open up his pocketbook, we can get a lot of things done. (Laughter). And that's a lot tougher than you would think it is, I'll tell you. Llwyd and I have known each other for a long time. Anyway, he'll do that, because he wants to make this the best he can make it, and we all want to make it the best we can for the community.
And that's why we brought in a couple of fellas who have been involved in golf tournaments for a long time, John Montgomery and John Hines. John Montgomery and John Hines have been involved in the Memorial Tournament since day one. I thought their expertise and help and advice to the board would be a real significant thing to help us grow this tournament and do it in the right way. They both are South Florida guys now and have been, actually, for quite a long time. But I think that John, you ran this tournament for a long time, too. John ran the tournament totally for a long time.
So all of those things, along with what we've got going with Ken Kennerly, who is an energetic young guy who has been involved with a lot of golf tournaments for quite a while. We feel like we've got a team put together that we can do something very special here. The other members of the board, the fellas and gals that we've known for a while that have supported the community and interested in making things be right.
So many of the ways that we've done things in Columbus for the Memorial Tournament, we want to try to bring some of those things down there. Tim knows what we've done at the Memorial Tournament and most people do. I think that the things you need, you have a quality thing, you have to have a good golf course, you have to have community support and have people that are willing to work and support the thing, and of course the support of Honda will be very, very important in this whole thing. We think we have the ingredients to do something very special and for us to come back here and do this is going to be fun. We're really going to enjoy it.
Q. Just to follow up on that, I don't want to get you started on the golf ball, but talking about changing the course, what's required?
JACK NICKLAUS: Just basically length. Actually the golf course has got pretty good length. We never played that in the PGA Seniors. We always played the golf course around 7,000 or 7100 or maybe not even that long, 6,900. I think the golf course has probably got about 7,200 yards, it's probably got. Does anybody know? I don't remember, really, because we never played it.
We'll add new tees and we'll go back can and go through it. I don't think there's a whole lot, maybe a strategic bunker here or there. There's really not a lot to do with the golf course. It's just basically bringing it to accommodate the modern day golf ball, really, the best we can. There's going to be enough challenges out there, and I suppose, what do we call it, the Bear Trap coming down around the corner, you don't need a lot of length there. All you need is to look at what's there and you have some pretty difficult golf shots.
So we think we can make the thing be very testing. The guys today are awfully good. They shoot some awfully low scores. And it's all right. I don't have a problem with scores. All I have to do is make sure that it's a good challenge and it's something that not only the gorillas can play, but the average length pro can be a competitor, too. I think that's what it's all about, to create a balance within the golf course that will bring a good champion and bring somebody who has played the best golf that week to the front.
DICK COLLIVER: We met with PGA National I think in 2001 or 2002. I think it was about the time that they were talking about some of the renovation, the work that they were doing on the golf course, and it didn't look like the golf course was going to be ready when we moved from Heron Bay. So it was necessary to make other arrangements.
Q. What does it mean to have a permanent place?
DICK COLLIVER: It feels pretty good. Tim Finchem and I have been talking about this for several years, of trying to putt Honda into a permanent location. You know, we read the papers. We know that the tournament has moved several times. We've never been able to establish permanency. We made a decision that we felt if we were going to stay in golf, we needed to go to a resort where we could have a permanent home.
So that was kind of the negotiations and the direction that we made. And the PGA TOUR and Honda all agreed, that's the way we should go.
Q. As a follow up, just out of curiosity, do you in some way wish that you had not made this move four years ago?
DICK COLLIVER: You know, you can't go back in history and look, no, in hindsight. No. Mirasol has been good to us. Tom Fazio built a nice golf course. He helped change the design before we went there. You know, unfortunately when you go to a real state development like Mirasol, similar to what we had in Weston Hills, they build out. It's built to be a residential community, and when you have two golf courses with seven or eight hundred members, we wear them pretty thin the two weeks we're here.
We just felt like we needed to get to a permanent location. But Mirasol has been good to us.
Q. How important is it, you've finally got this tournament at a course with some history to it, which is the one thing this tournament really has never had.
DICK COLLIVER: Well, I think it's very important. I think the history of the golf course, the new foundation, the members of the board and the history that they bring to it, having the Nicklaus family involved will bring all of those things that we felt was important, and that's where PGA National gives us an opportunity and maybe an edge up. We think it's very important.
Q. You seem to indicate that it was dependent upon Honda finding a good site that Honda may or may not have stayed and sponsored this event; is that true?
DICK COLLIVER: No. That was never an option with us. We made that perfectly clear to the PGA TOUR, because ultimately, they are the ones that decide where the tournament is going to be played, and they worked with us very close on that. So they knew that we were not going to walk away. And even before we had everything resolved here, we had already committed to the PGA TOUR for six more years.
JACK NICKLAUS: Haven't been around it. We had been waiting for the announcement to go through waiting for what we were going to do, making sure what was going to happen was going to happen and then we'll go out and look at it.
Llwyd and I talked about it, and I assume probably within the next few weeks we'll go out there and go around the golf course and with a work has to be done, we'll probably get to it fairly quickly.
Q. What's the best way to describe your involvement?
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, my role came from several areas. One is community; I love it here. Secondly is the Children's Hospital as the beneficiary. As Barbara said earlier, Honda coming here was really got us started here as far as moving towards having the children's hospital. And then the TOUR has come to us and asked us to be involved, and asked us to be involved as far as from the charity standpoint, and so the whole combination of things that were things that I want to do and Barbara and I want to do together. I think that we can make a difference, and I think that's what the whole thing is all about, making a difference, anyway.
JAMES CRAMER: I'd like to thank everybody for joining us today. I look forward to a great week this week and seeing you next year when the Honda Classic moves to PGA National. Thank you.
End of FastScripts.