The inside story of how the Rory McIlroy-headlined TaylorMade Driving Relief – our first taste of live golf for two months – came about

There was plenty of excitement when the TaylorMade Driving Relief charity match was announced. The 18-hole skins showdown at Seminole Golf Club will see Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson take on Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff at Seminole Golf Club in Florida.

And if you’re anything like me, you were wondering why those four players in particular were chosen. So I asked TaylorMade CEO David Abeles, the brains behind the idea, how the whole thing came about.

“Getting the athletes on board was perhaps the most progressive part of this whole process,” Abeles tells NCG in phone call from his home near the company’s headquarters in Carlsbad, California.

“We first had a conversation with Rory, being World No 1, and he fell in love with the idea. He couldn’t wait to get started and give back.

“One of the things we’re very proud of with our athletes is they’ve got enormous hearts, they’re relatable, and they care deeply about helping the game. And these four athletes in particular are going to do a wonderful job.

“DJ jumped right in, Rickie Fowler – one of the more creative athletes we have from a promotional standpoint – jumped right in, and Matthew Wolff, one of the up and coming superstars, couldn’t wait to be a part. So every one of our athletes decided almost immediately that they wanted to be part of the concept.

“Jon Rahm wanted to be part of it but unfortunately doesn’t live in Florida – and we had to work around Florida guidelines for health and safety reasons – while Tiger Woods is doing his own event the following week so he was already tied up.

“But there wasn’t an athlete in our portfolio that wasn’t excited about this. Even if they’re not playing, they’re excited about contributing and talking about it through their own social channels to help the event be successful.

“It just shows the good will and the nature and our athletes and it’s why they are part of TaylorMade – those values are very connected with who we are as a company and who they are as a group of superstars.”

So how did the TaylorMade Driving Relief event take shape? We’ll let David take up the tale.

“When it became very apparent that Covid-19 was going to present a challenge to the world, we had two very clear objectives: We’re going to make the necessary decisions on behalf of our company to exit the pandemic stronger than we entered it, and what was our social role to give back?” he explains.

“One of the things we looked at was could we align with our manufacturers and assembly partners to convert our lines to effectively make PPE. Unfortunately our operational and manufacturing capabilities just wouldn’t allow us to do that.

“So then we looked even deeper and how we could utilise our athletes and help them engage golfers – or any sport fans that would be inspired by them – to keep their spirits up as we navigate through these challenges.

“So we started to push a content strategy that wasn’t solely about selling golf but was about enjoying world-class athletes and individuals that many regards could be role models for younger kids. How do we create social content that would put a smile on people’s faces as we navigate through some pretty heavy reality?

“Then what we started talking about was financially how could we create something that could support first-line responders? How can we utilise assets like our athletes, our brand, and support partnerships to really make some money and drive charitable contributions on behalf of TaylorMade to those that are fighting on the front lines?

“So that inspiration in itself was to create a concept that would bring four superstars in our stable who are all local to Florida.

“Next we made a call to the PGA Tour and said: ‘How would you like to work tog to create the first live golf event since the start of Covid-19?’ The discussions with Jay Monahan and the Tour led to a simple reality that they would love to do that.

“We then called our partners at NBC Sport they were on board.

“Almost immediately we had an opportunity to satisfy all of us that want to see live golf.”

He added: “From that we designed a charitable contribution component – the United Health Group came in funding a $3 million purse for the event, and Farmers came in for another $1 million. We believe we can raise $10-15 million for the American Nurses Foundation and other nominated charities that are fighting this pandemic every day.

“Then I received a phone call from Seminole Golf Club, one of the finest golf courses in the world, to volunteer their facility.

“It’s something we’re very proud of and we think the ratings will be terrific in every golf market around the world and it’ll be a global event. It’s going to be incredible on Sunday.”

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