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The PLAYERS Championship: Golf for Good

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This year – 2024 – marked the 50th anniversary of THE PLAYERS Championship, a premier tour stop for PGA golfers from around the world! Held at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida (just south of Jacksonville where Nemours Children’s Health is headquartered), THE PLAYERS Championships attracts the best that professional golf has to offer for golfers, fans, and the community alike. 

The tournament, however, is more than just a one-week PGA stop. It’s a 52-week-a-year endeavor. Community investment, service and partnership are keys to the effort, which focuses on promoting youth services, education, character development, military support, and health and wellness. 

Joining us to discuss how THE PLAYERS Championship is a crucial player in improving health and well-being for the children of Northeast Florida and beyond are Nemours Children’s Health President and CEO Dr. Larry Moss, and Lee Smith, Vice President and Executive Director of THE PLAYERS Championship.

R. Lawrence “Larry” Moss, MD, FACS, FAAP, President and CEO, Nemours Children’s Health
Lee Smith, Vice President & Executive Director, THE PLAYERS Championship

Host/Producer: Carol Vassar


Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

Welcome to Well Beyond Medicine, the Nemours Children’s Health Podcast. Each week, we’ll explore anything related to the 80% of child health impacts that occur outside the doctor’s office. I’m your host, Carol Vassar. Now that you’re here let’s go.


Well Beyond Medicine!

Lee Smith, The PLAYERS Championship:

THE PLAYERS Championship is a one-week golf tournament, but it’s a 52-week endeavor.

Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

That’s Lee Smith, Vice President and Executive Director of THE PLAYERS Championship. This premier PGA Tour event happens at the TPC Sawgrass in beautiful Ponte Vedra, Florida just outside of Jacksonville.

2024 marks the Championship’s 50th anniversary, and we caught up with Lee the day after this year’s tournament concluded, following a heartbreaking missed putt by Wyndham Clark that put fellow pro and the world’s top-ranked golfer Scottie Scheffler in the winner circle for the second consecutive PLAYERS Championship, which in and of itself had never happened before.

So, what does a golf tournament have to do with the 80% of factors that happen outside the doctor’s office that influence a child’s health? Well, as you heard from Lee, the tournament is a 52-week-a-year endeavor. Community investment, service, and partnership are keys to that effort, which focuses on promoting youth services, education, character development, military support, and health and wellness.

Joining us to discuss how THE PLAYERS Championship is a crucial player in improving health and wellness for the children of Greater Jacksonville and beyond is Nemours President and CEO, Dr. Larry Moss.

First though, let’s turn to Lee to get a recap of the tournament week and the Championship’s exciting finish. Here’s Lee Smith.

Lee Smith, The PLAYERS Championship:

A lot of things have to come together in order to have such a successful event like we had this past weekend, and it kind of starts with weather. Dr. Moss has seen maybe some events around here that haven’t been blessed with such perfect weather. Then you get the support from the fans and the spectators that come out to see the best players in the world. The leaderboard then cooperated with some big-time champions, obviously concluded with our defending champion actually becoming the first back-to-back champion in the 50-year history of the tournament in Scottie Scheffler.

And then outside the ropes, just unbelievable partnerships with a lot of our local business leaders, and none of those are bigger, better than our partnership with Dr. Moss and Nemours Children’s Health. We had a great time spending some time with them, with their many events that they activate around the tournament, and then certainly excited to be here to talk about those things as well.

THE PLAYERS Championship, as you mentioned, is a one-week golf tournament, but it’s a 52-week endeavor, and those partnerships that happen outside the ropes are really important to us, and we almost take them as an obligation here in the community in northeast Florida.

Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

Dr. Moss, I’m going to turn to you. Talk about your experience this week and talk about the relationship between Nemours and THE PLAYERS Championship.

Dr. Larry Moss, Nemours Children’s Health:

It was a fantastic week, Carol, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic. Thank you to my new best friend, Lee Smith, for the kind words about Nemours.

Our partnership with the PGA Tour and THE PLAYERS Championship is among the most significant and important of the many partnerships we have here at Nemours. If I was going to focus on two things, I would say values and people. Nemours and the PGA Tour very much share similar values. We are both national organizations based in Jacksonville, and we are both deeply committed to our community and deeply committed to the well-being and the prosperity and success of children. So, it’s kind of a match made in heaven for us.

And when I talk about people, I’ve had the good fortune of getting to know Lee and his predecessor and Jay Monaghan and his team at the Tour and some of the most wonderful and committed people I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. So, the partnership feels very good, and it feels like we’ve been able to use our shared commitment to really do some tremendously positive things for children in Jacksonville and beyond. And I know we’ll get the chance to say more about that as the podcast unfolds.

Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

Thank you, Dr. Moss. Lee, I have a question for you. This tournament, with Scottie Scheffler coming up as the first back-to-back champion, is star-studded. If you look back over the 50 years, and like I said, this is the 50th anniversary, was the 50th anniversary tournament just completed. Jack Nicklaus in 1972 was your first champion. Everyone knows him. But looking at the champions through the years, Davis Love III, Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Lanny Wadkins, Lee Trevino, the list is star-studded. Tell us what brings back the best of the best year after year to THE PLAYERS Championship.

Lee Smith, The PLAYERS Championship:

Well, thank you, Carol. I think it’s multiple things. Certainly, this is a premier championship, not only in the world of golf but really in the world of sports and entertainment. It’s played on an unbelievable venue in TPC Sawgrass that always delivers and tends to identify the player that’s playing the best. There’s really no luck involved. The golf course doesn’t favor anyone. We always talk about we have short hitters that have won here. We have long hitters that won here, high ball, low ball, left to right, right to left, and I’m getting kind of nerdy with the golf analogies, but I think that’s one thing. Everybody feels like they have a chance when they arrive.

And then secondly, I think this is, and you heard it from our champion this year that mentioned the fact, this is also one of the events, if not the best event, that takes care of THE PLAYERS, the player support system, the player families, the caddies, the things that maybe spectators don’t see. We really try to cross every t and dot every i when it comes to taking care of everybody that travels with the player. And that means a lot to the player. It really takes a lot off their mind and eases their opportunity to play better inside the rope. So we always feel like we have the strongest in this field in golf, and I think a lot of those reasons are because of the venue we play on and the way we treat our players and their support system.

Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

Now, Lee, you mentioned that this is a 52-week-a-year endeavor. It is so much more than a golf tournament, THE PLAYERS Championship. It has community really at its center. Let’s talk about how the community benefits from the tournament and related events such as Chip in for Charity.

Lee Smith, The PLAYERS Championship:

Yeah, thank you. We have a laundry list of ways, and it really starts with our fundamental premise that we want to make a positive impact within the community in which we play. And that’s Northeast Florida. That’s the five-county area. That’s Ponte Vedra Beach. That’s Jacksonville. And so that one week a year really is the vehicle for us making a positive difference in these communities the other 51 weeks of the year.

And so we work hard to promote organizations, and our charitable pillars really revolve around youth services, education, character development, and health and wellness, and then obviously the military. So those pillars really, really drive us, and the event allows us to generate proceeds that can drive positive change in Northeast Florida. Starting with Dr. Moss and Nemours, we just have, as he said, we have a great partnership, which in my short time has turned into a friendship, and we look forward to a lot of those things moving forward also.

Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

So, let’s talk about that partnership. Dr. Moss, I want to go to you and ask about THE PLAYERS Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Nemours, which has really been a beneficiary of THE PLAYERS championship. It is directly a beneficiary of the tournament proceeds. Talk about the Center, that partnership with THE PLAYERS that has made this really a state-of-the-art Center and made it a reality for children in Jacksonville and beyond, really.

Dr. Larry Moss, Nemours Children’s Health:

Yeah. Thank you, Carol. Let me back up a little bit and say a couple words about the larger question. What does a children’s hospital have to do with the golf tournament, and why would we partner? A couple perspectives I’d like to offer on that. One is the immense importance of exercise. So, I like to say that if there’s one thing people should know about Nemours, it’s Nemours is in the business of creating health, not just treating disease. And for the 99.99% of kids who aren’t in the hospital, they need things outside the hospital that create and promote a healthy lifestyle. And there is no single factor other than exercise with a greater impact on future health and prosperity, and development of kids. There’s an enormous impact that exercise has on life expectancy, which far exceeds many other things we do to stay healthy, like not smoking and eating a healthy diet and a host of other things. So, exercise is at the core, so it very much makes sense for us to be linked with athletics and exercise, the things that promote a healthy lifestyle.

And the second aspect I want to highlight that we learned from sports is about dealing with adversity and perseverance. And I was thinking of poor Wyndham Clark with that final putt that was halfway in the hole and jumped out. I mean, that’s got to be a one in a million event that that putt doesn’t go down. By analogy, a one-in-a-million event that a baby is born with a severe congenital anomaly or a child develops cancer, and these rare events happen, but we need to pick ourselves up. We need to figure out how to combat against these unfortunate, rare events. And kids that are faced with these kinds of things need partners in helping them get through those kind of events.

And what I learned as a young athlete growing up about picking yourself up and moving forward after adversity, I think, applies to things I had to learn later in life as a pediatric surgeon and now as CEO of this health system, so we’re really grateful for the partnership. I talked about childhood cancer as a rare event, and that brings me to the very generous support of THE PLAYERS Championship in creating THE PLAYERS Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at our Nemours Center in Jacksonville.

Cancer is a rare event that affects a few kids, but it profoundly impacts the lives of those children and those families. That transformation and creation of THE PLAYERS Center was an $11 million effort with a tremendous amount of broad community support. But the lead and the matching donation came from THE PLAYERS Championship, and we truly could not have gotten that done.

When I say gotten that done, what I’m referring to is we doubled our square footage to over 12,000 square feet. We created an immensely healing type of environment that not only provides the best in chemotherapy and surgery and radiation therapy but provides child life support, provides music therapy, arts therapy, and all of those wraparound services that does everything science offers to treat that cancer, but also does everything else that the human connection and positive emotion can do to heal cancer. And we’re very grateful to THE PLAYERS Championship for putting us in the position to be able to offer that kind of support.

Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

Lee, this is a major step forward for Nemours and one of many things that THE PLAYERS Championship does in the community. I know that Blessings in a Backpack is also one of your beneficiaries. Talk about that. You had a backpack-stuffing event during the tournament.

Lee Smith, The PLAYERS Championship:

Yeah, absolutely. That was a lot of fun, and I think Dr. Moss and I shared a similar sentiment in our remarks that day where we know that we were hosting a golf tournament inside the ropes, but outside the ropes, that vehicle that is able to do good for our community is an obligation, and it’s certainly an opportunity. And Blessings in a Backpack was a fun way for us to make a big-time difference outside the ropes and in partnership with the Nemours, along with our childhood literacy event and others.

Sometimes, when you look at a golf tournament, you know that it’s a sporting event, and Dr. Moss just said it, there’s a lot that we can learn from sports. In a comment, he brought up Wyndham Clark. I’d like to also mention about Wyndham is that after that one-in-a-million putt, I probably saw him for 20, maybe 30 minutes, stand out there, sign autographs for kids. And so you want to talk about turning something into a positive. He probably made the day of a lot of children standing there waiting for him as a hero in signing autographs after just an absolute superior disappointment. So, kudos to him and kudos to all the events that we were able to participate in. It’s certainly a fun thing to do, and it makes it all worthwhile.

Dr. Larry Moss, Nemours Children’s Health:

Carol, I’m going to build on a couple things that Lee said. One in five children in America go to bed not knowing where the next meal is coming from. So if food security is an enormously important issue with the health of children, and many kids receive an important part of their nutrition during the school day from the school, but then they go home on the weekend, and they’re left hanging. And Blessings in a Backpack is all about filling in that gap. So, to be able to partner with THE PLAYERS in support in that effort is a tremendous opportunity for us.

Also want to recognize PGA golfer, Jim Furyk and his wife Tabitha, who have been great partners to Blessings in a Backpack as well. And they came to our event, as they always do, and it was a privilege to join forces with them.

With respect to Lee’s comments about Wyndham Clark and his character to sit there and sign autographs for kids after everything he went through, that speaks to the organization and the type of people, and the character of people involved with the PGA Tour. And it just makes me even prouder to be associated with them, and again, speaks to how we share values.

Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

Class acts all the way around, it sounds like. From a national perspective, you’re both national organizations, and this model of giving back isn’t just happening in Florida. I’m most familiar with the Travelers Championship up here in Connecticut, also a stop in the PGA Tour, and that employs a similar model of volunteerism, community partnership and giving back. Tell me about the relationship between the PGA and their various tour stops that make this possible. Lee?

Lee Smith, The PLAYERS Championship:

Yeah, absolutely. The PGA Tour has 40 plus stops throughout the year, and charity is a key pillar and a key driver of each one of those stops. And I go back to my comment about making a positive impact within the communities in which we play. Those PGA Tour events, as you mentioned, whether you’re Cromwell, Connecticut, Las Vegas, Nevada, or Houston, Texas, those PGA Tour events are driven to make charitable contributions inside of those communities.

And the PGA Tour has contributed since 1968, almost $4 billion to charity within the communities in which they play. So it is a significant difference that these PGA tours are making. The fortunate thing is that every event gets to choose their particular charitable pillars and the organizations that they partner with, but certainly, the tournament is the driver of those proceeds that allows them to make that significant difference. So almost $4 billion compares favorably to all the other professional sports organizations combined, which certainly makes one proud to be a PGA Tour employee.

Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

Dr. Moss, I want to ask you, where does the partnership go from here, the partnership between Nemours and THE PLAYERS Championship?

Dr. Larry Moss, Nemours Children’s Health:

Well, it gets better every year, Carol and we get deeper and closer, and we do more significant things every year. One of the things I would like to see happen is we’ve done so much in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, but as I mentioned, we’re both national organizations with national aspirations. In addition to doing a great job for kids that we see in our hospitals up and down the East Coast. Nemours has a national agenda to change the meaning of health in children and to realign the way healthcare is paid for such that the financial incentives of the health system can line up with the health of children. That’s a big bite to chew and that involves significant influence on the way healthcare is delivered nationally. So, we look forward to a deeper relationship with THE PLAYERS Championship and PGA Tour as we both exercise our larger and more comprehensive aspirations.

Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

Lee, I want to ask you a similar question. What can we look forward to from THE PLAYERS Championship for next year and the next 50 years?

Lee Smith, The PLAYERS Championship:

Well, I’ll start with weather again, Carol. I hope that we can have the exact same weather. We’ll start right there. No, each year, we look forward to growing the tournament, as Dr. Moss alluded to. Our goal is that this tournament is such a fundamental community event within Northeast Florida. Certainly, our goal is to grow that platform and expand our opportunities domestically as well as even internationally. And every year, the platform of THE PLAYERS Championship grows. So, we certainly look forward to that.

On-site, I think we always want to reinvent ourselves every three, four, five years. And so that person that comes on site knows that they see a lot of things different, and we’re always tweaking things here and tweaking things there to make the experience better. Less than 24 hours after the final putt goes in, we’ve already got a million ideas written down, as you can imagine, on how to make what a great event that happened yesterday, how to make that even better.

And I share Dr. Moss’s sentiment in that we’ll do the same thing when it comes to our partnership with all of our partners, as well as Nemours, is continue the dialogue. And Dr. Moss and I will not just reconvene, the next time we speak is a year from now. We’ll probably schedule a breakfast once we both catch our breath and get back together and really start to plan how our next 365 days looks and how we can continue to grow the partnership and make a difference. And I always love hearing him say, “Creating health and not just treating disease.” And I’ve heard him say it numerous times, and it’s not something that, from a golf tournament’s perspective, I wouldn’t necessarily ever think of, but it just makes the most sense in the world is that it’s just not a reactive thing, is that we’re being proactive, and we’re trying to help from THE PLAYERS Championship to help his effort and Nemours Children’s Health as well.

Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

Dr. Moss, I’m going to take it full circle here. How does this partnership go well beyond medicine?

Dr. Larry Moss, Nemours Children’s Health:

Well, people have said a lot of things about golf in the last couple of years. I will say unequivocally that Nemours supports the PGA Tour. We are philosophically aligned with the PGA Tour, and we are very grateful for this sports organization that has probably given more back to communities than any other organization. So, it’s a proud partnership from our perspective.

What well beyond medicine means is that the word well means something you want to be when you’re sick, but it also means something you want to be when you’re not sick. And it means something that all of us want for all of our children all the time. And Nemours aspires to be that organization which defines what health is in children. And when we have a healthier population of children, we have a healthier population of adults, we have a healthier economy, and we have a greater and more prosperous future for our entire country. So, the stakes are high, and the opportunity for impact is high. And we welcome that as an organization, and we want to be part of redefining the health of this entire country.

Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

Dr. Larry Moss is the President and CEO of Nemours Children’s Health. He was joined in conversation by Lee Smith, Vice President and Executive Director of THE PLAYERS Championship.



Carol Vassar, podcast host/producer:

THE PLAYERS Championship is working well beyond medicine by providing the means to fight hunger and to treat and research pediatric cancer and blood disorders.

What organizations in your community are going well beyond medicine in a similar fashion? Let us know by leaving a voicemail on our podcast website, nemourswellbeyond.org. That’s also where you’ll find our previous podcast episodes. While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to the podcast and leave a review.

Che Parker, Cheryl Munn, Susan Masucci, and Lauren Teta are the production team for this episode, and we thank them for all that they do.

I’m Carol Vassar. Join us next time as we discuss the benefits of gratitude. Until then, remember, we can change children’s health for good, well beyond medicine.


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Meet Today's Guests

Carol Vassar

Carol Vassar is the award-winning host and producer of the Well Beyond Medicine podcast for Nemours Children’s Health. She is a communications and media professional with over three decades of experience in radio/audio production, public relations, communications, social media, and digital marketing. Audio production, writing, and singing are her passions, and podcasting is a natural extension of her experience and enthusiasm for storytelling.

R. Lawrence Moss, MD, President and CEO, Nemours Children’s Health

R. Lawrence Moss, MD, FACS, FAAP is president and CEO of Nemours Children's Health. With more than 25 years as an academic surgeon and physician executive, joined Nemours Children's to focus the next phase of his career on transforming the definition of children's health and fundamentally changing the financial incentives determining their care.

Lee Smith, Vice President & Executive Director, THE PLAYERS Championship

Lee Smith is vice president and executive director of THE PLAYERS Championship, a global spectator event that leads the sports and entertainment industry through contestant, partner, and fan experience creation. He is focused on embedding himself in the Jacksonville community and expanding the championship globally.

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