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Ascension Charity Classic draws record crowds in inaugural year

The event set an attendance record for a first-time event on the PGA's senior circuit.
Credit: UPI
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus takes his approach shot on the 18th hole at a charity event during Day 2 of The Ascension Charity Classic in St. Louis on Saturday, September 11, 2021. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

ST. LOUIS — The organizers behind the Ascension Charity Classic expected the inaugural PGA Tour Champions event to draw about 30,000 fans.

Their expectations were modest.

The golf tournament drew 51,000 fans, a figure officials said set a record for a first-time event on the PGA's senior circuit. The attendance totals include the Ascension Charity Classic's three-day, 54-hole tournament as well as its pro-am event on Thursday. Net proceeds of the inaugural event will go to local charities.

"Not surprised at all to see us set attendance records, we knew St. Louis would flock to the event. We are the best sports and charitable community in the country and we again showed the nation how special our region is," Ascension Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Nick Ragone told the Business Journal.

David Toms prevailed as winner of the event, besting Dicky Pride on Sunday in a one-hole playoff. The victory marked Toms' second PGA Tour Champions win and his first triumph since the 2018 U.S. Senior Open. In an interview with the Golf Channel following his win, the 54-year-old praised the setup of the inaugural Ascension Charity Classic, citing the big crowds and course buildout.

"It felt like a PGA Tour with the crowds and everything, the buildout," Toms said.

The large crowds at this week's Ascension Charity Classic made the first-time event the most-attended PGA Tour Champions tournament so far this season, officials said. On Saturday afternoon, several thousand fans flocked to watch the tournament's Legends Charity Challenge exhibition, which included St. Louis Cardinals legend Ozzie Smith and St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube playing alongside famed golfers Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.

In addition to Ascension as title sponsor, several St. Louis corporations backed the tournament. Other founding sponsors included Ferguson-based Emerson (NYSE: EMR) as the tournament’s presenting sponsor and Maryland Heights-based World Wide Technology as presenting sponsor of Legends Charity Challenge.

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