Tournament chairman Garbutt enjoys role

Everyone who is at Newport Beach Country Club on the final day of the Toshiba Classic gets to be at least a little bit jealous of Ira Garbutt.

Garbutt, the tournament chairman, is the one who gets to hand the trophy to the winner at the awards ceremony on the 18th green.

He can rattle off the players to whom he's had the privilege of handing the trophy to over the past six years. There was Bernard Langer, Eduardo Romero, Fred Couples, Nick Price, Loren Roberts and last year's winner, South African David Frost.

Garbutt actually met Frost at a dinner last year, just before the tournament started.

"I got to know David a little bit," Garbutt said. "I said, 'I hand out the trophy. Wouldn't it be great if that was you this year?' And he said, 'I'll take it.'"

A few days later, Frost did take it. Garbutt, 68, who is a Newport Coast resident in his seventh year as tournament chairman, remembers it as a fun moment. He has plenty of those over the years.

"My job is to represent the tournament in a number of functions," he said. "It's really to thank all of our corporate sponsors, and work with [executive director] Jeff [Purser] and his staff on developing new corporate sponsors. I represent the Hoag Hospital Foundation, which is the charitable entity, and my job is to make sure the tournament is a positive, good reflection on the hospital for the community."

Garbutt is happy to volunteer his time to the tournament, which raises an average of more than $1 million for the Hoag Hospital Foundation each year. The past few years, the beneficiary has been the Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center. Garbutt, who had open-heart surgery at Hoag in 2000, appreciates that the diabetes center receives the money.

"I think we get an increased impact with it going to the diabetes center, because it's relatively new, and there are a lot of things they do that aren't reimbursed by insurance," Garbutt said. "Our gift to the diabetes center is, I think, more impactful than it might be in other areas. The diabetes center cares for people that have or are at risk for diabetes, regardless of their ability to pay ... it's a great community service that the hospital provides. It's great to be able to participate in something as positive as that."

Garbutt certainly is positive about the tournament. The Hoag Hospital Foundation is in its 17th year in association with the Toshiba Classic, and so is Garbutt.

Before serving as tournament chairman, he was a walking scorer for eight years and the volunteer chairman for two. Another memory Garbutt will never forget is his very first day as walking scorer. On the first hole, he got into a bit of trouble.

"I didn't quite know what to do," Garbutt said. "Even though we did training, when you get out there for the first time, it kind of escapes you for a while. I walked down the fairway and I was out of position. George Archer, who won the first Toshiba event at Mesa Verde Country Club, was getting ready to hit. He went to take a backswing, and I don't know how he saw me ... [but] he sent his caddy over there to get me to move.

"The caddy told me, 'Listen, let me give you some advice. Stay either directly in front of George, or directly in back of George, and we won't have any problems.' And I said, 'You've got it.' I never forgot it, and never got into any trouble again."

Garbutt works hard to make sure things go smoothly at the Toshiba. This year is the 20th year, and Garbutt said a couple of special videos are being made, as well as a book. The book will feature a tournament history, providing information on all of the highlights over the years. It isn't finished yet, as it will need to include the memories from this year first.

The benefits of the tournament are numerous. Garbutt said a study a few years ago estimated that the estimated financial impact of the Toshiba Classic on the area is about $27 million a year.

He said he mentioned it to two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange. Strange, who is from a small town in North Carolina, believed it. Strange and his wife have been known to go to Fashion Island the week of the tournament and load up on clothes.

"I was in Nordstrom's a few weeks after the tournament," Garbutt said. "One of the salesmen there says, 'You'd never guess who came in here.' I said, 'Let me give that a shot. Curtis Strange' ... And he said, '[Strange] bought a lot of clothes. He bought sport shirts and sports jackets and slacks and suits and shoes and belts and ties. He said, 'He must have spent $10,000 here.' That's just a little anecdote."

Not everyone will spend that much, but that's all right with Garbutt. So is the fact that the job as tournament chairman is very time-consuming. Garbutt still finds time to run his own business and spend with his wife of 44 years, Heather, as well as his three daughters and three grandchildren.

"If I sat down and tried to figure out [the hours], I probably wouldn't do it anymore," Garbutt said. "It's a lot, but if you want to do something, you can fit it in. The hard part is if you don't want to do something, trying to fit that in. But this is something that I've always wanted to do.

"I have three things that take up a lot of time: my business, the tournament and family. And I like doing all three, so I'm a very lucky guy."

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