Principal Charity Classic announces 2019 tournament dates.

Save the date!

The Principal Charity Classic®, presented by Wells Fargo, the annual and award-winning PGA TOUR Champions event in Des Moines, is moving up one week on the calendar in 2019.

The tournament dates for next year are May 28-June 2, 2019.

The 2019 Principal Charity Classic will immediately follow the 2019 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, set for May 21-26 at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., on next year’s PGA TOUR Champions schedule.

Last year, Principal extended its Principal Charity Classic title sponsorship through 2023. Principal has served as title sponsor since 2007, along with Wells Fargo as presenting sponsor. The extension announcement included the tournament’s host venue, with Wakonda Club set to host the Principal Charity Classic through 2023.

The tournament has donated more than $13 million – and counting – for Iowa children’s charities since it began. In 2017, the Principal Charity Classic donated a record $3,581,427 and touched the lives of more than 130,000 Iowa kids.

The Principal Charity Classic will announce the total charitable dollars raised by its 2018 tournament later this summer.

Ticket sales for the 2019 tournament will open later this year as well.

For more information, visit


Getting to know…Nick Cecere, Principal Charity Classic board president

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter

Nick Cecere grew up in Utica, N.Y., and started his professional career in upstate New York before his job took him to California. He came to Des Moines to work for Principal in 1996 and is now a senior vice president in charge of distribution. In August 2017, the former professional hockey player was named president of the Principal Charity Classic board of directors.

RB:  How has hockey played a role in your life?

NC: I played college hockey at Elmira College. I left after my junior year to pursue professional hockey. I played two years and at the same time, worked on completing my degree (in economics from Utica College) during the summers. I wasn’t naïve enough to think I was going to play in the National Hockey League. But I had to get it out of my system.

RB: You’re still involved with the sport as a coaching director for the Midwest Amateur Hockey Association, an affiliate of USA Hockey. Why do you do that?

NC: That’s my give-back to the sport. Both of my sons played (NCAA) Division I hockey. Nick played at Niagara, and Garrett just finished at Northeastern. Both were captains of their teams. We’re hoping Garrett lands someplace in the American Hockey League next year. I was hoping the Iowa Wild here in Des Moines would give him a shot. And they still might.

RB: What is your favorite sports memory?

NC: This past February, Garrett’s team won the Beanpot Tournament in Boston. It had been 30 years since Northeastern had won that event. It was the most exhilarating experience, like winning a World Series.

RB: Is there a sports figure you admire most?

NC: Wayne Gretzky, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not because he was good at hockey. It was the way he handled himself. He always had poise and character and confidence, and he was a guy who never big-timed anybody. I would also say Mario Lemieux. Probably the two best hockey players ever. I know both of them, and they’re the nicest people in the world. We don’t talk about hockey. We talk about our kids.

RB: What do you enjoy the most about Des Moines?

NC: Hands down, it’s the people. Great people. Friendly, honest. And our greatest friends are here. My wife, Barb, moved to Des Moines sight unseen. We love it here.

RB: Do you play much golf?

NC: I do. My golf swing is a hockey swing. From a driving perspective, I can hit the ball a long way with a short swing. Sometimes I’ll hit my 3-wood because I can hit it straighter. I play at Wakonda Club, probably 10 to 12 times a year.

RB: You also play lot of business golf. Do you find it true that you learn a lot about a person during a round of golf?

NC: Vey much so. I like to listen. I ask questions about people as a sales person. If people are going to buy something from you, they have to trust you. And if you’re spending four hours with a person on a golf course, you get to know them. You ask about their family and get them to talk about things that are important to them. I listen to their story. That’s the fun part about it.

RB: How did you first get involved with the Principal Charity Classic?

NC: I first got involved through the tournament’s Pro-Am, which is a great opportunity to bring business customers out to the course and have them play a round with a PGA TOUR Champions golfer. It’s an experience they never forget. And I’ve done that for about 10 years now. Last January, (Principal CEO) Dan Houston and (Principal CMO) Beth Brady asked me to join the tournament’s board of directors. And I became board president in August.

RB: You said it’s like a full-time job, but what are the rewards?

NC: A recent experience comes to mind. Variety – the Children’s Charity of Iowa is one of our Tournament Charity Partners, and they lead a program that donates specialized bikes to children with disabilities, as well as traditional bikes to children in need. In March, I was part of a Variety bike donation to a great family that lives in a small town near Iowa City. Their 10-year-old son, Landon, has faced a lot of challenges since birth. And Variety had customized a bike just for him. When his little brother rode it out to surprise him, his face just lit up. It was priceless. A few weeks later, Landon’s parents sent photos of the brothers riding bikes near their home. They’d never been able to do that together before.

RB: Was it an adjustment, stepping up to be the president of the board?

NC: I don’t get nervous about a lot of things. But I can tell you, when they said, “You’re going to be chairman of the board of this thing,” I started to sweat a little bit. Because when you look at the quality of leadership in that room, from Dan Houston to Suku Radia to Rich Willis – I could go right down the line. Everybody in that room is a mover and a shaker. And it’s intimidating.

RB: What is one of the first things you did?

NC: I scheduled a meeting with every single person on the board. I spent at least an hour with each of them. And I took my notebook with me, like a good salesman, and I asked a lot of questions.

RB: What kind of questions did you ask?

NC: I asked them all three questions. On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate this tournament from an event perspective? What do we need to do better? And what are we doing that’s working? I wanted to see if there was anyone on the board who didn’t want to be there. And every single one of them said, “Nick, I’ll do whatever you ask me to.” Everyone was committed to the tournament and to what it does for the community.

RB: As president of the board, what is one of your most important goals?

NC: One of my goals is to ensure that Principal isn’t just footing the bill for the tournament and putting in all the legwork behind the scenes. Same with Wells Fargo, our great presenting sponsor. We always want to get other people involved, other local leaders and businesses. This is a true community event – everyone is welcome and encouraged to get involved, in whatever capacity they can. The tournament currently has more than 350 sponsors, from small, family-owned businesses to large corporations. Hundreds of volunteers join us from local partners each year. And we’re really proud of that engagement. We’re excited to keep building on it.

Last year, the Principal Charity Classic raised a record amount for Iowa children’s charities. More than $3.5 million in a single year. Incredible. And the tournament has now raised more than $13 million since Principal became title sponsor in 2007. That level of giving wouldn’t be possible without community engagement and a shared belief in what the tournament is all about. As Dan Houston always says, “Remember, it’s about the kids.”

RB: Do you feel this event improves the image of Des Moines?

NC: All my friends, my mom, my in-laws back on the East Coast watch the Principal Charity Classic on the Golf Channel, and they say, “What a great town you have.” People here don’t necessarily realize the exposure our community gets as a result of this tournament. And that’s really important. Because it’s not only about helping kids. It’s about growing our community and being part of something special here.

RB: Would you say volunteers are an important part of the tournament?

NC: Absolutely. Think about 1,200 volunteers. That’s how many it takes to run the tournament. It’s a lot of people who volunteer their time – and not all the jobs are glamorous. They choose to give back at the Principal Charity Classic because they believe in the event and what it does for the community. They work hard and make every day fun. We’re so appreciative of their support.

RB: Is one of the challenges to bring new and different things to the fan experience?

NC: It can’t be déjà vu all over again. You’ve got to spice it up a little bit. When fans walk out of the gates, I want them to say to themselves, “That was a lot of fun. We got to watch some great golf together, right here in our community, and it was all for a good cause. We’re coming back next year.”

Principal Charity Classic Shatters Charitable Giving Record.

Great golf and even greater giving.

The Principal Charity Classic®, presented by Wells Fargo, today announced the 2017 tournament raised a record $3,581,427 for Iowa children’s charities, surpassing the annual event’s previous record of just over $2 million donated in 2016.

The Principal Charity Classic, which was named the 2016 PGA TOUR Champions Tournament of the Year, has now donated approximately $13.5 million to benefit Iowa kids since 2007 (watch video here).

“This level of giving is a direct reflection of the community’s support for the Principal Charity Classic and the incredible commitment of our 375 tournament sponsors,” said Dan Houston, chairman, president and CEO of Principal®. “This event continues to grow and exceed expectations. In particular, our Birdies For Charity program has seen rapid growth and benefits children’s charities throughout the entire state of Iowa.”

Birdies For Charity organizations solicit donations on their own behalf and receive 100% of every donation they collect, plus a 10% match on every donation thanks to generous funding from Sammons Financial Group and Wells Fargo. Participating organizations must have 501 (c)(3) status and programming for Iowa children, or be a K-12 school in the state.

Funds raised through the tournament also support six Tournament Charity Partners in the Des Moines area: Blank Children’s Hospital, Bravo Greater Des Moines, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, Mercy Medical Center, United Way of Central Iowa and Variety – the Children’s Charity of Iowa.

Principal extends title sponsorship

Principal also announced today it has extended its Principal Charity Classic title sponsorship through 2023. Principal has served as title sponsor since 2007, along with Wells Fargo as presenting sponsor. Wells Fargo extended its presenting sponsor role for an additional three years in 2016.

Today’s extension announcement also includes the tournament’s host venue, with Wakonda Club set to host the Principal Charity Classic through 2023.

“Principal is proud to extend its title sponsorship of this world-class golf event and to do so with the support of many dedicated corporate and community partners, and of course the Wakonda Club,” Houston said. “Our goal is for the tournament to flourish for many years to come, and to continue giving back to Greater Des Moines and the state of Iowa.”

The Principal Charity Classic, which drew more than 81,000 fans to historic Wakonda Club in 2017, annually brings some of the biggest names in golf to Des Moines. This year’s tournament featured 27 of the top 30-ranked PGA TOUR Champions players, with Brandt Jobe holding off defending champion Scott McCarron and Kevin Sutherland to win by one shot for his first career PGA TOUR Champions victory.

Additional 2017 competitors included Bernhard Langer, the 2016 PGA TOUR Champions Player of the Year and defending Charles Schwab Cup champion; past Principal Charity Classic champions McCarron, Mark Calcavecchia, Russ Cochran, Jay Haas, Bob Gilder and Tom Pernice, Jr.; and perennial fan favorites such as Billy Andrade, Fred Funk, Tom Lehman, Jesper Parnevik and Fuzzy Zoeller.

The 2018 Principal Charity Classic will take place June 5-10, 2018, at Wakonda Club. For more information or to donate and help the tournament support kids year-round, visit


Rick Brown Review: 2016 Principal Charity Classic Was A Winner

Scott McCarron won the BellSouth Classic on April 2, 2001, in Duluth, Ga. Five months later, the PGA TOUR Champions came to Greater Des Moines for the first time.

A sweet 16 years later, the Principal Charity Classic welcomed McCarron as its latest champion Sunday at the Wakonda Club.

For McCarron, it was his first victory in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event since that 2001 victory in suburban Atlanta. That covers 287 tournaments, the last 17 on the PGA TOUR Champions.

Sixteen years is a long time to wait. It’s also a testimony to the success of this tournament, which was played before record crowds and seems to get better and better each year.

This year’s field played for a purse of $1,750,000, which is close to what this tournament will produce for charity.

The 2015 event set a record by generating $1.4 million for the tournament’s “FORE Our Kids” designated charities as well as the “Birdies for Charity” program.

Beth Brady, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Principal, expects the 2016 event to set a new record for charity dollars. That means this tournament will have raised nearly $10 million in the 10 years Principal has served as title sponsor.

A crowd of 31,612 came to the Wakonda Club for Sunday’s final round, bringing the three-day total to a record 83,389. Attendance records were also set for the first round (25,058) and second round (26,719).

Many of those fans hung out at the “MidAmerican Energy Green Canyon,” one of the new fan-friendly areas unveiled this year. The “Green Canyon” included the 16th green, the par-3 17th and the 18th tee. Grandstands circled the 17th green, with an LED ribbon board created by local company Insane Impact to keep those fans informed. The new Hornitos Hacienda – home to “birdie margaritas” – was a popular “Green Canyon” stop as well.

The 17th green turned out to be a pivotal spot in determining Sunday’s winner. That’s where McCarron holed a 36-foot downhill birdie putt to take the outright lead he’d never surrender.

Thirty-six feet? Are you sure it wasn’t 30 or 35? No, McCarron will tell you, it was 36.

“I’ve been stepping off putts since I was 10 years old,” McCarron said. “I had a chipping lesson from Bill Rogers (a former British Open champion) way back then and he always had me step off my putts. So when someone asks me how far it was, I usually know. It was 36 feet, going downhill.”

McCarron put the wraps on his first career PGA TOUR Champions victory with a stellar second shot from the right rough on No. 18 that stopped just inside 10 feet from the hole.

McCarron made three practice strokes from behind the ball, addressed that ball and stroked it into the cup. A fist pump followed after the ball disappeared.

“Yeah,” he hollered, with a clap of his hands, as he walked off the green. And then he had to wait for the final two threesomes to finish before he could accept the trophy and the first-place check of $262,500.

McCarron didn’t watch the final two groups play the 18th on purpose.

“Out here on the Champions Tour we root for everybody,” McCarron said. “All these guys are my friends. I don’t want anybody to hit a bad shot. So I don’t even want to know what’s going on. I just want to do my own thing, and see what happens.”

Several players in those final two groups shook McCarron’s hand and offered congratulations.  The long wait – 16 years long – was over.

And it ended with some incredible golf. McCarron shot 68-68-65. He played his last 47 holes without a bogey. In fact, he had just one bogey the entire tournament. And when he avoided a second bogey on the par-3 9th on Sunday, he got the feeling it was going to be his day.

“I buried it in the lip on No. 9 and had a very difficult shot,” McCarron said. “I got it just over the green. I made about a 13-footer for par. That’s kind of what really saved the round.”

Miguel Ángel Jiménez and Billy Andrade both birdied the 18th hole to finish in a tie for second, a shot behind McCarron. Andrade’s closing-hole birdie was his record 21st of the tournament, erasing the previous tournament mark of 20 set by Gil Morgan while winning in 2006. Andrade wasn’t as fortunate. Victory eluded him.

“You know what?” Andrade said. “Somebody’s got to win and somebody’s got to lose, right?  But I’ll be back next year.”

That will be June 6-11, 2017, a week later than this year. Another year of planning to make one of the best stops on the PGA TOUR Champions even better.

By Rick Brown, Principal Charity Classic Senior Reporter