Worthy: Zurich Classic field slowly growing

“Every year, I want to have a deep field with the good, young stars of tomorrow and add a couple of guys whom I would consider to be difference makers.” STEVE WORTHY, Fore!Kids Foundation CEO

Fewer than sixty days from the opening round of the 2014 Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana, Fore!Kids Foundation CEO Steve Worthy is slowly but surely building his “Field of Dreams’’ for the annual PGA Tour stop.

Four-time Florida All-American Billy Horschel is expected back to defend his championship. Worthy is confident that 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and 2013 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner also will be on hand the week of April 21-27.

Other stars potentially in the mix include past Masters champions Adam Scott (ranked No. 2 in the world) and Bubba Watson (No. 14) and current FedEx Cup points leader Jimmy Walker (No. 25 in the world), among others.

“Jimmy Walker was tied for the lead on the back nine on Sunday in the Zurich last year,’’ Worthy said of the tour’s three-time winner this season. “He’s been a regular here in the past. The casual golf fan might not recognize Jimmy Walker, but the hardcore golf fan knows he’s a star.

“Every year, I want to have a deep field with the good, young stars of tomorrow and add a couple of guys whom I would consider to be difference makers.’’

Worthy and his team of Zurich Classic recruiters remain busy trying to line up early commitments. Earlier this month, Worthy visited an old haunt at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he served as CEO of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation for six years before assuming a similar position with Fore!Kids Foundation in 2012.

Two recruiting visits on the Florida swing also are in the works: next week at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Bay Hill on March 20-23.

The deadline to enter the 156-player field is April 18. Commitments will continue to trickle in, but nothing is official until then.

“It’s an interesting process,’’ Worthy said. “You think you got guys locked up, and then things pop up with guys’ schedules and family-oriented things. You can do everything in your power, and sometimes it doesn’t work out.

“So many guys love our city, they love the food, they love the event. But even those that do aren’t necessarily the guys we get every year. You walk that tightrope of staying visible with them without pushing too hard and making sure that they know we’d like to see them here. I feel good about where we are. I feel we will have a very good field when we get here in April.’’

The tour’s new wrap-around season could affect the way golfers plan their season, though to what extent it’s too early to tell. Worthy said some appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach before making commitments far in advance and filling out their schedules.

“Most of the agents and players I’ve had conversations with felt if there was going to be an impact, it might be on some of the January and February events,’’ Worthy said. “Guys aren’t necessarily committing as early. But most felt the players would get back on schedule by the time they get into the Florida swing.

“I had a lot of very positive conversations at Pebble with a deep, solid group of guys. But a lot of them will wait to get to Florida and into March before they schedule further out. That might even be a little later because of the new season. It’ll be interesting to see how all this shakes out.’’

The skyline and footprints at TPC Louisiana will begin taking shape next week when construction begins on the various entertainment/dining venues around the course, most notably the Acme Oyster House pavilion and Capital One Champions Club, and on the box suites encompassing the 18th green.

The most noticeable change to the 7,399-yard, par-72 layout designed by Pete Dye has occurred on the 548-yard, par-5 second hole, where the green has been raised and enlarged to provide more hole options and scoring opportunities.

“This is my third tournament, and I feel really good about things, financially and from a charity standpoint,’’ Worthy said. “We’ve been able to give away a lot of six-figure checks that have a real impact on our community and in the region.

“The reason we have so many good members in the Fore!Kids Foundation is because of the money we give to charity. That’s a way we can measure ourselves. I think people take more pride in living here and being from here than probably anywhere else I’ve ever lived. So that sense of pride knowing that you’re part of something that’s raising money and improving your community and your region is very important. So I feel great about that.’’

Notes

Lakewood Golf Club ended its 53-month association with Jimmy Headrick, a recipient of numerous local, state and national awards for his many contributions to the advancement of junior golf. The move was effective Feb. 1. “They told me it was because of cost-cutting measures,’’ said Headrick, a member of the Gulf States PGA Hall of Fame and recognized as a top-50 junior golf instructor by the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation. “My resolve is to continue to grow golf in New Orleans stronger than ever. My best days are ahead of me.’’ ... For ticket information to the Zurich Classic, call (504) 342-3000 or go to zurichgolfclassic.com.