Reflections on the Humana Challenge from 2013 Champion Brian Gay

By Brian Gay, 2013 Champion, Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation

The desert is a pretty special place for my wife, Kimberly, and I. The very first time I arrived here in the fall of 1998, I got my TOUR card for the first time. Making it through Qualifying School at PGA WEST was a very proud moment for me.

Being from the South, I had never really seen anything like this place – the mountains, the desert and the wonderful weather. The first time I visited PGA WEST, I just felt like it was a very special place.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to find out how fun this event was to play in that first year. As a rookie, I was an alternate here but didn’t get to play in the tournament. I think I’ve been here every year since then and I just love coming to La Quinta. This has always been one of my favorite views on the PGA TOUR – sitting at PGA WEST looking at these mountains and hitting balls on the range with the mountains as a backdrop.

Of course, nothing beats actually WINNING here, which was obviously a great way to start last year. It was the second event I played in last year and, if you remember, Scott Stallings had a pretty big lead starting the day, Sunday. I had the mindset to go out and shoot as low as I could and see what happens. Luckily for me, I got hot early and was way under par early in the round. Fortunately, I ended up in a playoff, but I had to catch some breaks along the way for that to happen.

I actually missed a birdie on the last hole and I thought, ‘Well that’s it for me. I’m probably going to finish one short.’ And then a couple guys stumbled coming down the stretch. One guy hit it in the water you just never know what’s going to happen. So I was waiting and then all of a sudden, boom, we’re in a playoff and it all happened really fast. It was an exciting playoff and I was lucky enough to make a couple of birdies to secure the win.

It had been two, two-and-a-half, maybe three years since I last won, so it was that much more special to win after that big of a gap. The other thing that made it special was the way it all unfolded in the playoff. In all my other wins, I had pretty good leads or at least had the lead on Sunday. But to win the second event I played in that year, to win it in a playoff and to beat the setting sun and win it just before dark made it very exciting.

I was voted PGA TOUR Player of the Month for January 2013, which was great. It’s always a goal of mine starting the year to win a tournament. Any time you can get a win on the TOUR, I consider that a good year because the fields are so deep and the competition is so tough.

I guess the biggest thing was just winning so early and how it set everything up for the rest of the year – winning before the Masters to get me back there, which is my favorite tournament and a tournament I’ve dreamed about winning my whole life. I was really looking forward to getting back to Augusta and competing again.

The year didn’t end exactly how I wanted. Obviously, you want to finish a little bit higher and make the top 30 in the FedExCup Playoffs and I didn’t quite get there. But it’s a long year and you have ebbs and flows and ups-and-downs. I had a nice finish to the previous year at Disney and that got me charged and ready to start the year on a good note.

One of the biggest ups came from President Clinton. When I won, they told me he was going to call me, so I was a little nervous about what I was going to say to him. But he was wonderful, congratulating me and apologizing for leaving before the tournament ended because he had to get back to Washington D.C. for President Obama’s inauguration.

He told me he and Hillary were sitting there watching the tournament when she looked over at him and said ‘Bill, if you’re going to play with him, you’ve got to step up your dress.’ I thought that was great.

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