Jack Nicklaus long has been a proponent of giving back, and he and his wife, Barbara, have been strong supporters of numerous charitable causes over the years. Of course, giving back to their hometown of Columbus always has been important. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, which Jack founded in 1976, has not only produced great entertainment, compelling winners, and memorable moments, but also has served the people of central Ohio well beyond the boundaries of Muirfield Village Golf Club.
One of the truly elite fields in golf convenes when the Memorial Tournament is held May 29 – June 4 at the course that Nicklaus designed and built, Muirfield Village. The game’s top players compete for a purse of $8.5 million, but the Tournament is worth millions more to people who never hit a shot on Muirfield’s manicured fairways.
First and foremost are the charitable contributions that the Memorial Tournament is able to generate for local charities. Leading the way in that endeavor is the Tournament’s more than 40-year relationship with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Memorial Tournament Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Contributions to Nationwide Children’s not only have saved countless lives, but also have led to patients making a difference in other people’s lives.
For instance, look at the good works of Dublin, Ohio, native Caitie Bogenrief. Caitie was born eight weeks premature and rushed from her birth hospital to Nationwide Children’s. She underwent lifesaving surgery just days after she was born and spent two months in the Memorial Tournament NICU, gaining strength and growing until her parents could take their first child home.
Fast forward 19 years and Caitie was posing for pictures with Jack and Barbara Nicklaus as the inaugural recipient of the Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award. This special award is given annually to a patient or family who in some way has demonstrated a strong, driving spirit in overcoming obstacles, an unwavering optimistic outlook, and a strong conviction for their connection to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award honors a person’s courage that inspires volunteerism and community outreach. Caitie received the award in 2011 during the inaugural Legends Luncheon, a charitable initiative of the Memorial Tournament, and it helped to further shape a career path that she embarked upon at a very young age. With a gentle manner, kind spirit, huge heart and great sense of compassion for those in need – especially children – Caitie began giving back early in life, volunteering for more than a half-dozen meaningful causes before graduating from high school.
“Receiving this award during my freshman year of college had a tremendous impact on my career path,” said Caitie. “One of my biggest passions has been children in the healthcare setting, and I knew that I wanted to concentrate my efforts in this field. The Nicklaus Youth Spirit Award helped me recognize that others saw my passion as well. In speaking with Jack and Barbara regarding why I was selected, I realized that giving back and making a difference in the lives of patients and families in the hospital setting was what I was meant to do with my life.”
Today, Caitie is a Child Life Specialist in the NICU at Children’s Health Dallas.
“Each day I have the opportunity to use my experiences as a patient, volunteer, student and now, a professional to shape the impact I have on my patients and their families in the NICU,” Caitie said. “I strive to make the stressful, scary and fast-paced NICU feel a little more normal for our babies and their families. It is truly an honor to be a part of our babies’ journeys.”
Caitie’s journey is just one example of how the Memorial Tournament is changing lives. The 2016 Memorial raised $2,166,000 for charitable organizations in central Ohio, including a record-setting $1,676,500 for Nationwide Children’s Hospital through an alliance with the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation. Since its first playing in 1976, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide has eclipsed $27 million in donations to central Ohio charities, with more than $16.5 million going to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.