The Sugar Bowl had to be played in Atlanta.
The New Orleans Saints moved their home games to Tiger Stadium and San Antonio.
Within the first eight months after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the Zurich Classic golf tournament stood alone among the city’s major annual sporting events as being able to return.
The tournament moved in April 2006 from storm-damaged TPC Louisiana in Avondale back to English Turn in Algiers, then moved back to TPC Louisiana the following year.
Through it all, the tournament’s title sponsor stayed the course.
This will be the 11th straight year that Zurich Insurance Group, a Switzerland-based company, has been the title sponsor of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. To Martin Senn, CEO of the Zurich Insurance Group, it has been a rewarding relationship for his company as well as the city.
“It’s a very good feeling, very gratifying,” said Senn, who again plans to attend tournament week. “Obviously it is an opportunity for us to bring many customers and employees together, our stakeholders who truly love golf not only in the United States but all over the world. It allows us to build relationships and links us professionally with our customers.
“And it also shows our commitment to the community. We are proud we were the first major sporting event to return to New Orleans after this terrible disaster. We never wavered in that and we have always stood beside the people of New Orleans.”
That commitment was reaffirmed in 2013, when Zurich extended its title sponsorship of the tournament for five years (in addition to the year left on the existing deal) through 2019.
For Senn, Zurich’s title sponsorship goes beyond birdies and bogeys on the golf course. The Fore! Kids Foundation, the organization that puts on the Zurich Classic each year, has raised about $30 million for over 100 South Louisiana charities since its inception in 1958.
Through the foundation, Zurich has become more involved in specific endeavors, such as building a playground at St. Michael’s Special School, Blessings in a Backpack (with 2013 U.S. Open champion and Zurich golf ambassador Justin Rose), the Bayou District Foundation and the St. Bernard Project.
“Building the playground at St. Michael is very humbling, I must say,” Senn said. “Some of the children there when we started were very little, and now you see them and they’re 9 years old.”
The St. Bernard Project has rebuilt nearly 900 homes for not only Katrina victims in New Orleans but tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri, and Superstorm Sandy victims in New York and New Jersey.
“We’ve grown with them throughout the United States,” Senn said. “The commitment and engagement for us is not just a sporting event or writing a check but to have an impact through those different organizations.”
Tournament week tees off
Tournament week begins Monday at two venues.
The Zurich Classic Monday Pro-Am takes place at TPC Louisiana with an 11 a.m. shotgun start. At English Turn, players will vie for four available tournament spots in the classic’s open qualifier.
Two other pro-ams will be held Wednesday at TPC Louisiana and the University Club.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.