UNC Health Championship Moves to Raleigh Country Club

 A hole-in-one event returns to Raleigh this year, but with a new name and a new location.

Missed the PGA Championship? There’s a local op delivering a whole new way to par-tee (!). The Rex Hospital Open (formerly dubbed the Rex Classic) is debuting its new name—UNC Health Championship—and new location at the Raleigh Country Club this year June 1–4.

“The new name aligns with our brand, UNC Health,” says Alan M. Wolf, director of news and media relations for UNC Health. “We are the state’s health system, with facilities, providers and clinics across North Carolina. This type of fun family-friendly sporting event fits with our mission of improving the health and well-being of all North Carolinians. The UNC Health Championship presented by STITCH begins a new era of professional golf in Raleigh.”

To tee up some history… the championship’s roots date back to more than three decades, when Rex Hospital trustee Greg Poole Jr. began raising money for the hospital, with the help of LPGA pro-golfer Dianne Dailey. The tournament, which began as an LPGA event at North Ridge Country Club in 1988, is now among the top Korn Ferry Tour events in the country. How’s that for a hole-in-one?!

While the Rex Hospital Open has been held at the Country Club at Wakefield in North Raleigh for the past 18 years, the new location at recently renovated Raleigh Country Club brings a new set of challenges to competitors—with an enhanced viewing experience for spectators to boot. Not to mention proceeds will continue to benefit UNC Health and local community partners.

“We worked closely with our partners at McConnell Golf (owner of Wakefield and Raleigh Country Club) and the PGA Tour to identify the best venue for the new UNC Health Championship,” Wolf explains. “Designed by renowned architect Donald Ross and operated by McConnell Golf, Raleigh Country Club is ranked among the top 20 golf courses in North Carolina. Its proximity to Downtown Raleigh and a more central location in Wake County also provides greater accessibility for spectators from across the Triangle.”

To wit, there’s a lot at stake at this year’s tournament. The Korn Ferry Tour features 156 professional golfers converging from around the country and the world—both young, up-and-coming professionals striving to reach the PGA Tour as well as competitive, seasoned professionals that have lost their PGA Tour status and are vying to return. 

Additionally, many players have local ties, including Ben Kohles, who grew up in Cary and has won two tournaments on the Korn Ferry Tour this year (translation: he is likely to make the PGA Tour next year!), and Ryan Gerard and Carter Jenkins, both of whom played golf at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

Each day of the tournament offers additional entertainment for attendees (see below), and throughout the four-day event, Empire Eats will also be treating attendees to menu faves from The Pit, Raleigh Times, Gravy and Sitti. “The UNC Health Championship offers affordability, entertainment and accessibility—a prime opportunity to engage with tomorrow’s golf stars,” says Wolf. 

“The setting is perfect for fans of all ages,” adds Wolf, “including those who may not know much about the game of golf but enjoy volunteering, socializing outdoors and supporting local charitable events.” Sounds pretty on par with a weekend well spent.

Photo courtesy of Brian Strickland

Tee-rific Activations

May 30: Kids Clinic—Kids 18 and under (and their parents) will have a unique opp to watch the player practice rounds on a closed course.

June 1: Local Love Day (presented by United Healthcare)—Various community partners will be at the fan area to share info about their programs and services.

June 2: Canes Day—All season ticket holders will gain free entry to the golf tournament. 

June 3: Wear UNC Health Blue Day—Show support for health care workers, and stop by the UNC Health tent to meet some of the Tar Heel Paws and Furr Friends therapy dogs. 

June 4: Heroes Day (presented by First Citizens)—Active military and fire and rescue personnel will gain free entry to the tournament.

Photo courtesy of Brian Strickland

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Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.