Chances are that if you’ve heard of the Century Club of San Diego, you’re either a golf fan or have attended the nonprofit’s signature event, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course. But if it were up to Century Club’s CEO, Marty Gorsich, golf isn’t the first thing he wants his organization’s name to bring to mind.
The 60-year-old nonprofit’s origin is deeply rooted in golf, to be sure. As the host organization of the annual San Diego golf tournament, which has evolved and changed names over time to become the Farmers Insurance Open we now know, it’s an easy association to make between the Century Club and the game itself. But its mission wasn’t ever to simply be a golfer’s social club with ties to a significant tour-level event. It was always about giving back to San Diego.
“The Century Club has been around for 60 years … but I’d say that the directionality of really making an impact on our community has been something that we’ve homed in on,” says Gorsich. One of the club’s two main goals — creating positive economic impact for the San Diego community as a whole — is easily facilitated by the stunning beauty of Torrey Pines Golf Course, the setting for the winter-timed tournament when San Diego weather can easily be the envy of much of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. “It tells the ‘brand’ of San Diego to the world. We don’t have any other events in San Diego that do that. With tourism being our third largest market, that’s great,” he says.
With a deep background in sports organizations including 14 years with the Padres, San Diego native Gorsich has a well-honed savvy for the intricacies of working in an arena that engages the city, public, corporate, and nonprofit partner worlds. Over the course of his roughly ten-year tenure with the Century Club, which is operated year-round by a paid team of nine and guided by its volunteer membership and member board, Gorsich activated his experience to make it more consistent, effective, and efficient. Now, it’s able to pass on those learnings in a meaningful way to the charities supported by the Century Club’s nonprofit Champions for Youth core program, which is focused on at-risk and underserved youth. It’s also changed how many charities they choose to support, going deeper with fewer to become a sort of “incubator” for those that are looking to develop and expand their impact versus blindly handing over a big check and moving on.
“We started to learn that I couldn’t sit here and tell you how we changed lives,” he admits. “Narrowing our focus and getting deeper, I can [now] tell you stories about how we took someone who was in a bad place and put them in a better place, and their life is better and has a clearer compass because of the work the Century Club did, and that’s the new Century Club.”
Gorsich and the Century Club have learned this isn’t accomplished by money alone. “‘Time, talent, and treasure’ is an expression in the charitable world, and often we can fall into the trap of focusing on treasure,” he says. “As we look deeper, there are a lot of ways that go well beyond that really can make a charity much better, so that’s where our membership has been much more involved, volunteering their time for more yeoman’s work but also volunteering time for some very specific needs that those organizations might have.” It’s even come to change the makeup of the organization itself, which has evolved its membership from being linked by a shared interest in golf to a more diversified group with an array of professional skills that benefit the goals of the club and the needs of its partner charities.
Whether through the Century Club’s work, its members in the community, or hosting its premier event at Torrey Pines, Gorsich wants to ensure that one thing is very clear: These aren’t just a group of golfers “hanging out in our jackets at the tournament. We are a civic entity looking to make a difference.” centuryclubsd.org