Jack Nicklaus: Play Yellow campaign grows at the Memorial Tournament

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 13: Jack Nicklaus and PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan speak to the media during a practice round for The PLAYERS Championship on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 13, 2019 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 13: Jack Nicklaus and PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan speak to the media during a practice round for The PLAYERS Championship on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 13, 2019 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Jack Nicklaus has made the Memorial Tournament one of the TOUR’s finest events, and the Play Yellow campaign will do some amazing things for the Children’s Miracle Network.

A little over two months ago, Jack Nicklaus, Barbara Nicklaus, PGA TOUR commissioner Jay Monahan, and John Lauck, President and CEO of Children’s Miracle Network, announced the Play Yellow for Children’s Hospitals campaign, a charitable effort to raise $100 million in five years to support the medical needs of children across the country.

“It’s really hard to not be involved when the Nicklaus family is behind it,” Commissioner Monahan said about Play Yellow.

The Play Yellow campaign idea percolated during a breakfast get-together at the Nicklaus’ house a year earlier with Jack and Barbara Nicklaus hosting Jay Monahan and John Lauck.  Lauck knew about the remarkable fundraising that the Nicklaus family had done for hospitals in Columbus, Ohio, and in South Florida.

"“Barbara made homemade cookies, and we had a great first meeting and talked about how could we get the whole golf ecosystem involved in doing something that would really make a difference in the world of pediatric healthcare,” Lauck recalled."

Lauck noted that 10 million children need medical treatment every year and that a massive fundraiser would go a long way to providing for their needs when insurance or economic issues can’t.

"“So many of our hospitals are in need of what we would call, you know, restricted funding to be able to help take care of the kids, whether it’s equipment, whether it’s research, whether it’s uninsured care, or whether it’s some of the softer things like child life or schooling in the hospital,” Lauck noted."

His question at the breakfast gathering was to ask how golf could help him reach that $100 million goal.

Enter the idea of Play Yellow.

According to Jack Nicklaus, people who wore yellow shirts to The Memorial Tournament in recent years and/or who made a donation to Nationwide Children’s Hospital received a yellow shirt and a badge about “playing yellow.”

"“Yellow Shirt Campaign, we called it,” Jack Nicklaus said. “We have just expanded upon that, and that’s what we’re doing right here. So, whether you wear yellow or not, to think yellow, that’s what we’re doing.”"

Most people do not know that the idea of wearing yellow, as Jack Nicklaus has often done at golf tournaments, came from a young boy the Nicklaus family knew, years ago.

"“Craig Smith was the son of our minister in Columbus, Ohio, and at age 11 Craig was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma,” Barbara Nicklaus explained.  “His mother called me one day and said, ‘Barbara, would Jack ever consider calling Craig?’ She said, ‘Craig is a huge fan of Jack’s and would just love to hear from him.’”"

According to Barbara, Jack Nicklaus called him.

"“They immediately struck up an unbelievable relationship, and I think Jack called him at least once a week for the two years he lived,” Barbara continued."

As Barbara recalled, Jack and Craig had talked one Sunday after Jack won a tournament.  Craig told Jack that the reason he won the tournament was because Craig was wearing his lucky yellow shirt.

"“So, Jack said, ‘Okay, Craig, if you can wear a lucky shirt for me, I’ll wear my yellow shirt for you next Sunday,’” she recalled."

Nicklaus continued to wear yellow on Sunday for many years afterward. That is why wearing yellow has been special to the Nicklaus family.  Craig Smith died when he was 13, in 1971, but Nicklaus continued the tradition long after that.

Fast forward to the Masters in 1986.

"“Sunday morning of the last round of the Masters, and Jack’s kind of rummaging around in his suitcase looking for a shirt to wear, and he picks up a yellow shirt and he just holds it, and he looks at me, and I just look at him and I said, ‘That’s it. That’s perfect,’” Barbara remembered. “I said, ‘You have to wear that shirt today for Craig.’”"

With Nicklaus’ victory at the Masters that spring, the yellow shirt story was told in public for the first time. It had always been private before that Sunday.

"“I guess you can understand why this is such a personal campaign and (why) Jack and I are so passionate about the Play Yellow campaign,” she added."

The PGA Tour supports many charities nationally and internationally through its tournaments. As such, it was a natural for the PGA Tour to lend its support to Play Yellow.

"“It started out with that fateful breakfast,” Monahan recalled, “and our contribution as an organizational commitment over the next five years to do everything we can to help get to the hundred million dollars.”"

The PGA Tour has done out-reach to all their tournaments.  They have several that will be activating the Play Yellow campaign. They have also encouraged manufacturers to get involved.

“When we make an organizational commitment, you’re going to apply all your resources to make certain that we get to the goal,” Monahan insisted, adding that these kinds of missions are the kinds of things that the PGA Tour does that isn’t reflected in their financial statements or charitable giving, but are done in the spirit of the game.

"“We’re going to get to a hundred million dollars,” he added.  “We’re going to do everything we can to support these great partners.”More from Pro Golf NowGolf Rumors: LIV set to sign Masters Champion in stunning dealFantasy Golf: Grant Thornton Invitational DFS Player SelectionsBrutal return leaves Will Zalatoris looking towards 2024Stars You Know at World Champions Cup Starts Thursday at ConcessionFantasy Golf: An Early Look at the 2024 Masters Tournament"

There have been many commitments already including from The Players, the Memorial Tournament, the Honda Classic, Nationwide Insurance, Topgolf, Callaway, Srixon, the TPC Network, PGA Tour Superstores, Marriott Golf, Titleist, Footjoy and Golf Digest to name but a few.

Prior to the Masters, Ahead and Jack Nicklaus debuted the Play Yellow golf hat which is still available.

According to the Children’s Miracle Network Play Yellow Campaign web page, there are several ways to support Play Yellow even if you aren’t at a golf tournament:

1. Donate $18 for 18 holes PlayYellow.org
2. Wear a yellow shirt at the golf course, and post image on social media.  Use hashtag #PlayYellow. Tell everyone why you Play Yellow.
3. Create a Facebook Fundraiser of your own to support Play Yellow and raise money for your local children’s hospital.
4. Support Play Yellow’s corporate partner at playyellow.org

Next. Memorial Tournament 2019: Dark horse picks at Muirfield Village. dark

Money raised for hospitals in Children’s Miracle Network communities stays in the communities where it was raised. There are 170 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals around the United States and Canada.