The Biggest, Most Memorable Names to Play CVS Charity Classic

Over the course of it’s 23-year run, the CVS Charity Classic brought some of the biggest names in golf to Rhode Island for a couple of days. 

Not only did the tournament raise a ton of money for charity, it also gave Rhode Islanders the chance to see professional golf up close, which doesn’t really happen all that often in the Ocean State. 

From a pair of GOATs in Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam, to players like Peter Jacobsen and Rocco Mediate, the CVS Classic field almost always delivered. 

Below are some of the biggest, most memorable names to play in the tournament. 

Who was your favorite? What are your memories?

12. Peter Jacobsen, pretty much every year

Peter Jacobsen was with the CVS Charity Classic from the very beginning as his production company helped put the event together. 

He certainly wasn’t the biggest name at any of the tournaments, but he was one of the most memorable because he hosted the clinic in the morning before the first day of competition. 

Jacobsen would make jokes and do impressions of all the players, and even some players who were not there. 

It was hilarious and always a great way to kick off the tournament. 

11. Natalie Gulbis, 2007 + 2009

Gulbis was one of the first LPGA Tour stars to play in the CVS Charity Classic along with Juli Inkster. 

She was a hot commodity on the LPGA Tour for a number of years, but only managed one Tour win in her career. 

At the CVS, her father walked with her group and if anyone made any comments, like “will you marry me” type stuff toward her, he would respond in a humorous way – mostly. 

10. Rocco Mediate, 2003 + 2008 

Rocco Mediate won the 2003 CVS Charity Classic alongside Jeff Sluman. 

But, I think his most notable appearance came in 2008 when he arrived at the tournament just days after losing to Tiger Woods in a thrilling 91-hole U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. 

Mediate filled in at the CVS Classic last minute after Boo Weekley withdrew. 

Rocco was given standing ovations all over the place that week. He smiled and signed autographs for everyone who asked. 

It was almost like he had won the U.S. Open. 

Mediate was scheduled to play in the 2019 CVS Charity Classic, but it was canceled due to Covid. 

9. Cristie Kerr, 2012 + 2017

One of the greatest women’s players, Cristie Kerr, came to the CVS Charity Classic in 2012 and 2017.

In her career, she has won 20 times, including two majors and was formerly the #1 ranked player in the world. 

In 2012, Kerr teamed with John Cook, and in 2017, she teamed with Brad Faxon and Smylie Kaufman. 

8. Greg Norman, 2004

The Shark is not really well like among the PGA Tour community anymore due to his involvement with LIV golf, but in 2004 he was a huge hit at the CVS Charity Classic. 

Imagine, both Norman and Palmer played in the tournament that year, what a field. 

Norman played with Brad Faxon that year, they didn’t win but were in contention. 

7. Rory McIlroy, 2018

By 2018, the CVS Charity Classic had gone from a two day event with two man teams, to just a one day event with three man teams. 

The tournament got a huge boost in 2018 when Rory McIlroy committed to the event. It was also the same year that he started working with Brad Faxon, coincidence? I think not. 

“Obviously, it means a lot to the people here. Look, I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to be involved and I had a great time,” McIlroy told the media afterward. 

McIlroy was the 8th ranked player in the world and had already won four majors when he came to Rhode Island. Amazingly, he is still at those same four majors. 

Rory was a class act when he was here. He must have signed hundreds of autographs for kids and spoke to us media folks for an extended period of time. 

6. Juli Inkster, 2007 + 2014

The CVS Charity Classic began inviting LPGA Tour players in 2007 and the first two to ever play were Juli Inkster and Natalie Gulbis. 

After they made their debut to huge crowds, other LPGA Tour stars like Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel, among others followed. 

Inkster returned to the CVS Classic in 2014, just a day after playing in her 35th and final U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst. 

She nearly won that tournament, but a Sunday 75 prevented that from happening. 

Inkster played with Pressel in 2014, the duo finished five shots out of first place. 

5. Lee Trevino, 2007 

Six-time major champion Lee Trevino teamed up with Billy Andrade in 2007 at the CVS Charity Classic. 

Trevino told stories and jokes the entire two days, keeping everyone on their toes. 

“It’s not hard to enjoy yourself when you’re playing something like this. When you go there and you like the facilities and enjoy the golf course, it’s really easy to be joyful and talk to everybody,” Trevino told the media that week. 

Trevino had a great time, and so did all the fans who followed him around. 

4. Annika Sorenstam, 2012 

The CVS Charity Classic got the greatest men’s player of all time in 1999, and in 2012, they brought in the greatest women’s player of all time in Annika Sorenstam. 

Six years earlier, Sorenstam had won the U.S. Women’s Open at Newport Country Club and now was back in Rhode Island. 

At the CVS, she teamed with Peter Jacobsen and I happened to be a walking scorer for that group on one of the two days. Afterward, I got to meet Annika and she signed a golf ball for me, a very cool experience. 

3. Gary Player, 2001 

The Black Knight, Gary Player joined the CVS Classic in 2001 and teamed with Brad Faxon. 

On this day, Faxon fired an 11-under par round on his own ball, putting the duo in position to win the tournament. 

At the 18th hole, Player drained a 15-foot putt to send them to a playoff with Nick Price and Mark Calcavecchia. Player started dancing a jig on the green as the fans went crazy. 

Price and Calc won the tournament that year. 

2. Arnold Palmer, 2001 + 2004 

Arnold Palmer agreed to play the CVS Charity Classic in both 2001 and in 2004, and Arnie’s Army followed. 

Palmer played with fellow Wake Forest alum Billy Andrade both years. In 04, Palmer’s appearance at the CVS came just a few short months after he played his final competitive round at The Masters. 

I briefly met Palmer in 04 when I was volunteering as a Marshall (quiet sign person) and he came over to me and asked how I was doing. 

He kind of was only playing every other hole by this point, but he got a huge ovation everywhere he went. 

1. Jack Nicklaus, 1999 

People always say to kick things off with a bang, and the CVS Charity Classic certainly did that. 

For the first ever event, they brought in the greatest golfer of all time, Jack Nicklaus to play at Rhode Island Country Club. 

Nicklaus played with his son Gary in a foursome with Andrade and Faxon. 

Of course, what was memorable about this tournament was that there were back-to-back hole-in-ones in the group ahead of them, courtesy of Lee Janzen and Scott McCarron. 

Other Notables: Bubba Watson, Bernhard Langer, Rickie Fowler, Morgan Pressel, Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau. 

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