Humana Challenge's Focus On Wellness Mission Part Of Event's Evolution
The PGA Tour Humana Challenge in its current form is characterized by "corporate executives, carrot sticks and early morning power walks," as opposed to the "Rat Pack, T-bone steaks and late-night cocktails" when the tournament was known as the Bob Hope Classic, according to John Nicholson of the AP. Tournament Exec Dir & CEO Bob Marra said, "We take the health and well-being mission of the tournament very seriously ... We want to make this clearly the healthiest sports event in the world. You have to walk the walk when you say that." The tournament has "done away with the celebrity portion of the pro-am field," though actor Craig T. Nelson, singer Michael Bolton, Cardinals K Jay Feely and Golf Channel's Holly Sonders "are playing as 'special guests.'" Marra said, "We feel like it's more important to have high-profile people -- still celebrities in their own right -- who are aligned with the tournament philosophy than to have a field of celebrities. ... A super-hot celebrity who is smacking the ball all over the place and causing a ruckus hurts." Nicholson noted the pro-am players "paid from $25,000 to $29,000 to play alongside the professionals for the first three days of the tournament, and six of them will advance to the final round." The event by eliminating the "roughly 20 slots" given to celebrities "cut expenses and generated more than $500,000." Marra: "There was only so much you could do with celebrities. It was a neat part of the past, but I like it better now" (AP, 1/15).
HOPE & CHANGE: GOLFWEEK's Jeff Rude noted Hope died more than 10 years ago, and since that time so have his "model and vision" for the annual Tour stop in Palm Springs. The focus now is "more on health than Q-rated party." Golfer and former PGA Tour Policy Board Dir Paul Goydos said, "You could kind of see things changing when Mr. Hope passed. His death changed the dynamic of the event. He drew fans and amateurs." Rude noted many of the pro golfers "weren't wild about playing four different courses and long rounds with three amateur partners." Some celebrities "didn't want to play three or four days, and the quality of celeb dropped off in recent years." The upshot is that "while actors, singers and athletes no longer roam the fairways here, the pro fields are considerably better." Only "one player in the top 40 in the world" played the '08 tournament, while this week’s Humana "has nine of the top 50 and five of the top 31" (GOLFWEEK.com, 1/15). In California, Larry Bohannan asked, "Why are we considering this week’s event part of the lineage of the old Bob Hope tournament and not just a new tournament all together?" Between changing "the name, the number of days, the number of courses and the number of amateurs in the field and now taking the celebrities out of the event, there might not be much to connect this Humana tournament to the old Bob Hope Classic." Bohannan: "But there are connections, nonetheless. And the connections are as strong as the changes have been drastic" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 1/12).