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Players pushing for New Orleans

John Subers is one of the most visible tournament directors on the PGA Tour, usually seen with a gentle smile and a handshake as he makes a pitch for players to come to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

This year, the reception has been more enthusiastic than ever.

The Zurich Classic had to switch venues when the TPC at Louisiana was battered by wind and flooding, moving to English Turn for the April 27-30 event. Even so, it is expected to be the first major sporting event in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in September.

Subers couldn't help but notice how interested players were about coming back to New Orleans.

"They've shown compassion and a desire to be part of the regrowth, the rebirth," he said. "The compassion they've shown has been overwhelming."

He has been busy getting early commitments, and some players have offered brief interviews that the tournament wants to package in a six-week television campaign to build support in Louisiana.

"The theme is, 'We're the PGA Tour, we're supporting New Orleans, we look forward to seeing you, we look forward to coming back and we believe in you,"' Subers said. "We're not trying to script it, but picture six weeks of commercials, with 15 to 20 players saying they're coming to New Orleans. We think it will make an impact."

Among the early commitments are David Toms, Kenny Perry and Davis Love III. Toms is a natural, because he grew up in Louisiana and considers the Zurich Classic his hometown event.

Beyond a soundbite for TV, however, Toms also has turned into a recruiter.

"I'll talk to some of the players along the way," Toms said. "It's something I felt an obligation to do. I think it's important to the future of that event. It's important to showcase it on television, the rebuilding effort. The more quality players in the event, the bigger the television audience will be."

Subers said the tournament, meanwhile, is offering reduced rates to companies for corporate hospitality, although it still hopes to continue its level of charitable giving. The Zurich Classic raised a little more than $1 million last year, and was ready to distribute it to 25 local charities when Katrina arrived.

Only recently did the tournament distribute the money, with all of it going to agencies helping Katrina victims.

January 4, 2006

 




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