The inaugural NEXUS Cup hosted by Tiger Woods and benefitting TGR Foundation featured great golf, fine food and generous giving. It also took place in an especially fitting and meaningful place.
Liberty National Golf Club boasts spectacular views of the New York City skyline, which, of course, was permanently altered by 9/11. It was in the aftermath of the tragic events in 2001 that Woods had the idea to make a major alteration to his foundation. Specifically, Woods had time to think while driving home alone from St. Louis to Orlando after that week’s WGC-American Express Championship was cancelled.
“[I realized] if I was here at the time, what would happen to the foundation? Well, it would be gone,” Woods said of his then golf-based charity, which was started in 1996. “There was really nothing sustaining it except for me to doing golf clinics.”
According to TGR Foundation, it’s a choice that has now positively affected more than 1 million underrepresented students through educational resources that include STEM curricula, college-access programs and teacher development. But Woods is in the process of expanding globally—and events like the NEXUS Cup will help.
“What’s really unique about it is that it’s an amateur event, but the experience people have, it makes you feel like pros,” TGR Foundation CEO Rick Singer said of the new competition that took place Tuesday and Wednesday. “You’re seeing what it’s like to be a PGA Tour pro.”
That included a scripted wardrobe for both days with each team being assigned different colors and custom staff bags embroidered with individual and team names for each player.
There were actual PGA Tour pros on various holes as well. Major champions Henrik Stenson, Gary Woodland and Keegan Bradley were all available to hit shots for teams that wanted a bit of help. Here's Woodland hitting one with his U.S. Open trophy looking on:
Although, choosing Bradley from 190 yards directly into the wind wasn’t a gimme when the regular tee was about 80 yards closer.
Stenson also offered people Swedish Fish (seriously) and took participants through a complimentary fitting of his line of sunglasses:
Golfers also could get a massage on the range:
Now that's living.
Not surprisingly, there was plenty to drink and eat on the golf course, highlighted by Fuku chicken creations:
There also was plenty to drink at eat off the course with nightly dinners at the posh NEXUS Club in downtown Manhattan.
It was at Tuesday night’s dinner where an auction raised an additional $365,000 to be split between TGR Foundation and the One Bahamas Fund, created by Tiger and fellow NEXUS partner Justin Timberlake following Hurricane Dorian. That night also featured Jimmy Fallon conducting a Q&A with Tiger.
Sixteen teams of four golfers competed in the luxury two-day event, put on in partnership with NEXUS, with the funds going directly to TGR Foundation.
“Tiger has the stature and ability to change the lens on how to do fundraising and what to do with the outcome and the impacts,” NEXUS senior managing director Douglas E. McMahon said. “It’s not just about kids wanting to be athletes. It’s whatever their giftedness is. And these are kids that need a boost. We feel very honored to do things together.”
“Everyone wants to meet Tiger,” said Damien Mitchelmore, vice president of NEXUS’ Albany property in the Bahamas, where Woods has a residence. “He’s a living legend.”
But while Woods was fairly accessible for the two days—he took a $100 off one unlucky (lucky?) team with a side bet on a par 3—three teams in particular got to know the 15-time major champ better. The winning team had dinner with Woods at the NEXUS Club on Wednesday. And the two teams that split the tab on the auction’s big prize, a private breakfast ("Tiger really eats steak and eggs!") and putting lesson with Woods and Woodland. And before you ask, yes, that’s Lawrence Taylor in the pictures below:
“Tiger’s foundation does great work and we’ve been involved in the Hero World Challenge, which was a great experience,” Brian Shatz, captain of Team Magnolia, said. “But I don’t think anyone expected the access and having the ability to spend the time with Tiger at this event. It’s something we’ll never forget.”
Taylor was one of two New York Giants legends competing in the tournament. The other being Michael Strahan, who also filmed a "Good Morning America" segment with Woods that will air on Friday morning on ABC:
Then was stunned when Tiger beat him in a putting contest by draining his first attempt at a curling 20-footer:
"I've still got it!" yelled an exuberant Tiger. And for those curious, Woods looked spry following arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last month. The reigning Masters champ didn’t hit any full shots, but said he was cleared by his doctors to resume playing golf as of last week. Tiger remains on track to return to competition at another inaugural event, GOLFTV's "The Challenge: Japan Skins," on Oct. 21 before playing in the PGA Tour's Zozo Championship later that week. Woods has an exclusive content partnership with GOLFTV, which along with Golf Digest, is part of Discovery.
Back to those who were playing, the event featured a fun, but unusual format. Five squads, most of which boasted fantastic team names, made it through the team match-play portion and into the championship shootout. From there, it was alternate shot starting from the middle of the fairway on Liberty National's scenic 18th hole while a couple of big names watched—and sometimes, heckled.
“We wanted to differentiate and give it a different twist than what our guests typically see,” TGR Live's VP, Championships Mike Antolini said. “What can we do that really keeps the competition up? And we figured team match play was the answer. Everyone has a chance waking up on Day 2. And having Tiger and Gary looking over their shoulders in the championship shootout adds to the pressure. So it’s a pretty cool finish.”
Speaking of the finish, that turned out to be quite a story as well. On a week of NYC gridlock—avoided, by the way, with a ferry to the course—due to the United Nations General Assembly, a pair of players from South Africa (Kamalan Munsamy, Kinesh Pather) and another pair from Miami (Jason Rosenfeld, Antonio Arbulu) meeting for the first time came together for an emotional victory as part of Craig’s Team, named after a friend who sadly passed away at 48 from stomach cancer earlier this year.
“We played in his honor and his memory," Rosenfeld said. "And it’s a really, really wonderful feeling to be able to knowing he’s looking down on us."
This new bunch of best friends will be back—and so will the NEXUS Cup.
"It’s great to be here. He’s done so much for all of us so it’s nice to give something back for him," Bradley said. "This is a great thing Tiger has done and I know it will just continue to get bigger and better."