After 18 years at The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation in North Raleigh, the popular Korn Ferry Tour event will return to the final design of renowned architect Donald Ross that put Raleigh on the golfing map. The tournament’s name will change to the UNC Health Championship presented by Stitch and the total purse will increase to $1 million for the first time, helping raise more money for charitable initiatives and attract a broader base of fans from across the state.
RALEIGH, NC (May 2022) — After 18 years at The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation in North Raleigh, the REX Hospital Open will return in 2023 to the site that put Raleigh on the golfing map: Raleigh Country Club. RCC, which opened in 1948 just east of downtown Raleigh, is the final design of legendary architect Donald Ross and annually ranks among the state’s best layouts.
The REX Hospital Open is the largest and most successful annual charity fundraiser for the health system and an important stop on the Korn Ferry Tour schedule. During the past three decades, the event has raised more than $10 million for patients, programs and services at UNC REX Healthcare.
In 2023, the tournament’s name will change to the UNC Health Championship presented by STITCH and the total purse will increase to $1 million for the first time. The changes are expected to help increase the tournament’s impact, raise more money for charitable initiatives and attract a broader base of fans from across the state.
Both Raleigh Country Club and The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation are owned by McConnell Golf.
“Our main reason for moving the tournament is to get closer to downtown and attract new fans,” said McConnell Golf CEO John McConnell.
McConnell Golf is the largest owner of premier private clubs in the region with a portfolio comprised of 13 18-hole, private golf courses, one semi-private and one nine-hole course in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
In 2003, McConnell purchased RCC to help preserve golf’s historic place. The McConnell Golf portfolio includes three other classic Ross designs in addition to RCC — Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club, which annually plays host to the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship, Country Club of Asheville and Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn., which has played host to the Korn Ferry Tour’s Visit Knoxville Open the past two years.
McConnell Golf is the only individual golf course proprietor in the world that owns four Ross-designed courses. In 2020, McConnell Golf completed a major renovation of its historic RCC golf course, overseen by architect Kyle Franz. The focus of the project was retaining the integrity of Ross’s original design while allowing more challenges for today’s long-hitting players. The RCC renovation cost approximately $5.5 million, funded entirely by McConnell Golf, making it one of largest recent privately funded investments in East Raleigh. There were no member assessments.
Raleigh Country Club boasts a rich history of hosting professional and amateur championships:
- The club hosted an LPGA event from 1966-1974. From 1966-1970, the tournament was called the Raleigh Ladies Invitational. From 1971-1972, it was called the Raleigh Golf Classic and from 1973-1974, it was called the American Defender Raleigh Classic. Judy Rankin, Carol Mann and Kathy Whitworth were some of its notable champions.
- From 1998 to 2000, RCC hosted the Nike Tour/Buy.com Tour Carolina Classic prior to the move to Wakefield Plantation in 2001. Now the event returns back to RCC in 2023. Winners were Brian Bateman (1998), Vance Veazey (1998) and Mark Hensby (2000). Jimmy Green shot a first round 60 (29-31) to set the old course record in 1998 before finishing second. Green’s scorecard is on a plaque in the RCC Trophy Room.
- The 2008 North Carolina Amateur Championship at RCC was won by Jack Fields on Father’s Day with his father on his bag, caddying. Fields set the then-course record with a final round 63 that included an eagle on No. 8 and double eagle on No. 12. His 3-wood/metal is on display at the home office of the Carolinas Golf Association (CGA).
- The 2013 North Carolina Mid-Amateur Championship at RCC was captured by North Carolina amateur sensation Scott Harvey.
- In addition, numerous McConnell Golf scholarship recipients have come through RCC including Grayson Murray, Carter Jenkins, Ryan Nagy and Blake McShea. RCC’s junior members of note include Cyrus Stewart and Stephen Franken.
Now, Raleigh Country Club prepares for the next chapter of its professional championship golf history.
“We look forward to an outstanding event this year, as we begin preparations for some exciting changes to the tournament in 2023,” said Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health. “We believe these updates will mark a new start for one of North Carolina’s top professional tournaments, benefitting both golfers and fans alike, while supporting health and wellness in the Triangle region. As someone who loves watching and playing golf, this is a week I look forward to each year.”
About McConnell Golf
McConnell Golf, founded in 2003, is currently the largest owner of private clubs in the region. McConnell Golf’s stable of premier private clubs (comprised of 13 18-hole, private golf courses, one semi-private and one nine-hole course) in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia include Raleigh Country Club in Raleigh, N.C., Sedgefield Country Club and The Cardinal by Pete Dye in Greensboro, N.C., The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation in Raleigh, N.C., Old North State Club in New London, N.C., Treyburn Country Club in Durham, N.C., The Reserve Golf Club in Pawleys Island, S.C., Musgrove Mill Golf Club in Clinton, S.C., Brook Valley Country Club in Greenville, N.C., Porters Neck Country Club in Wilmington, N.C., Country Club of Asheville in Asheville, N.C., Providence Country Club in Charlotte, N.C., Holston Hills Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn. and The Water’s Edge Country Club in Penhook, Va. McConnell Golf also operates the 27-hole public Raleigh Golf Association.
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