By Bob Marra, Executive Director and CEO, Humana Challenge in partnership with the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation
Our event is known around the Coachella Valley as the golf tournament that built a hospital. But long before I started my work for the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, I knew the event that built the Eisenhower Medical Center helped build a lot more in our desert communities.
According to none other than golf icon Arnold Palmer, the only five-time winner of the tournament, it helped build the PGA TOUR.
“Bob Hope was one of the pioneers that had a lot to do with the entertainment industry supporting golf,” Palmer said. “Who knows what the bottom line was to the value of that because it certainly was important to the PGA TOUR. The fact that people like Bob, Bing Crosby and Clark Gable and their friends supported golf and made more people aware of the game helped the professional tour.”
While our event was named “2012 Sports Event of the Year” by the respected Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusinessDaily, and while it has raised more than $52 million, helped build the Eisenhower Medical Center and the PGA Tour since its 1960 inception as the Palm Springs Golf Classic, it has also greatly enhanced the lives of countless folks throughout the Coachella Valley. In fact, that’s one of the things we are most proud of here: the diversity of our contributions and how those contributions have benefited Valley residents.
Organizations like the West Shores Youth Center, which provides a safe, drug-free, after-school and summer-time environment for more than 125 children in economically depressed Salton City. Others such as Martha’s Village, a wonderful organization that Desert Classic Charities funded from nearly its creation as a provider of a full range of services for the Valley’s most needy individuals and families. Martha’s Village helps provide health care, shelter, career and education counseling and child care to those in need. Those are just two of the dozens of local nonprofit organizations that, over the years, we are proud to help grow and nurture.
Our event has also built a timeless path to community involvement. Whether it’s playing in one of our Pro-Am events or serving as one of our more than 1,000 volunteers – many of whom have volunteered their time , dedication and passion for decades – the event is an annual touchstone for community spirit. And the best part is we always have room for more!
But the building doesn’t stop there. Did you take your 10,000 steps today? Thanks to our exciting partnership with Humana and the Clinton Foundation, people all over the Valley have been studiously getting their 10,000 steps a day in – all the while learning that golf can be a great path to health and wellness in the process. Humana’s innovative approach to combining golf, health and wellness has not only made the Valley a healthier place to live, it also has captured the interest of other tournaments throughout the country.
Humana’s theme has also captured the interest of one of the greatest – and healthiest – golfers in history. Gary Player won more than 165 tournaments around the world. He is one of only five golfers who captured the career Grand Slam – winning the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. And even at 77, Gary still cranks out 1,000 sit-ups a day!
“To me, this is the single-most important tournament on the Tour. If I was a professional golfer, I would make it my business to play here,” Player said. “Because you are helping to get a message through to a country that really needs the message. The greatest country in the world, the United States, 30 percent of the youth are obese. 55 percent of the grownups are obese. Obesity is doing more harm than the wars of the world, because so many people, through obesity related diseases, are dying by the millions. Not by the thousands, by the millions. And so a tournament like this helps to build awareness.”
I’m proud to announce that Mr. Player will be joining us again for the full tournament week in 2014 (January 13 – 19).
And we’re also proud of the wonderful partnership we have built with the City of La Quinta, our host city. The entire tournament and several related events, such as the Humana Well-Being Walk and Humana Day at the Certified Organic Farmers Market in Old Town, are held within the city.
The partnership between the tournament and the city doesn’t stop the moment we present our champion with the Bob Hope Trophy. It is a year-round relationship based on the idea that the Humana Challenge is a civic institution that does more than put its proud host – the City of La Quinta – on the national sporting landscape one week a year.
I welcome anyone who is interested in attending the 2014 Humana Challenge, playing in one of our tournament week Pro-Am events, or volunteering for the tournament, to visit our website (www.HumanaChallenge.com) for more information.
People like Arnold Palmer and his fellow touring pros; Mr. Hope and his fellow celebrities; local civic leaders like the late Ernie
Dunlevie, John Curci, our current President and Chairman, John Foster; and the tireless board members and volunteers have built something more than a golf tournament. They built an institution that has touched the lives of countless people in so many ways.
I’m just honored and humbled that they handed me the toolbox to help build from here.