LA QUINTA, CALIFORNIA | A venerable golf
tournament was teetering on the brink. It
needed an infusion, something or somebody to breathe enough life into it to see if
it could be resuscitated.
If the Bob Hope Classic wasn’t exactly
dead, it certainly was on life-support. A
year ago, it had no title sponsor, and had
been without one since Chrysler pulled its
name and deleted its logo from the tournament’s stationery after 2008 to deal with its
own ailing fiscal issues.
With the memory of Hope’s impact
waning each year, the PGA Tour’s desert
stop had lost its panache. The charm was
gone. Who can say no to an American icon?
The format, always cumbersome but doable thanks to the respect Hope brought
to everything he did, had turned incurably
stale. There had to be changes and everybody associated with the event, from the
local tournament officials to the PGA Tour,
“We set out last year to address a number of concerns,” Tournament Chairman
Larry Thiel said.
In concert with the PGA Tour and Humana, changes were explored and implemented. Those included securing a title sponsor – Humana, the well-being solutions
company that offers a wide array of health
benefits. Humana is about healing, and the
Bob Hope Classic desperately needed a
dose of that. How’s that for synergy?
The Humana connection was enhanced
when it partnered with the William J.
Clinton Foundation. Among the goals of
President Clinton’s organization is to foster
improvements in global health. Another
“Having President Clinton a part of this
event is drawing way more attention than
it’s ever had. I see this tournament getting
better and better ... especially with the golf
course change.” – Anthony Kim
national platform, which is the PGA Tour,
and the fact that so many golfers represent
people that do take care of themselves,
and so all of that fit together very nicely
and really launched us, I think, in a real
The parameters were put in place in
April, 2011, and the deal consummated a
short time later. Bob Hope’s desert classic
finally had a title sponsor, and a lot of other
good things also were about to happen.
Instead of a 90-hole event, the Humana
Challenge became 72 holes over four days.
The changes were made to improve
speed of play, provide a more player-friendly backdrop and facilitate a more
intimate relationship with the professionals
and their daily amateur partner.
“At the end of the day we thought it
would be a wonderful change, and it has
been,” Thiel said. “Before the first ball was
struck, the pros were saying nice things.
The formula is working. I think everybody is
feeling good about it.”
Anthony Kim went to LaQuinta High, in
the shadow of Toro Peak, in the Santa Rosa
Mountains. This is his turf but he had not
played in the desert for three years.