Humana Challenge tees off in La Quinta

First round of tournament play begins today at three courses in La Quinta

LA QUINTA, Calif. - The Humana Challenge begins today at three courses in La Quinta, with organizers hoping to improve on last year's tournament, named Sports Event of the Year by SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily.

Featuring 156 PGA Tour professionals, the tournament will be held at PGA West's Palmer and Nicklaus private courses and La Quinta Country Club. Golf greats Gary Player and Billy Casper and Humana Chairman of the Board Mike McCallister will hit the first shots at PGA West's Palmer Private Course at 8 a.m.

Humana Challenge Executive Director and CEO Bob Marra said the main reason the tournament that was known before 2012 as the Bob Hope Classic was so celebrated last year was that it relied on a "brand-new concept."

"The focus became not just about the golf but the benefit of living a healthy lifestyle," Marra said, and "because of the vision and the way it came out, (it was) adopted by fans and the media and the community really got behind it,"
"When you have a new angle, a whole new way of thinking about a PGA Tour event ... and to pull it off so well, I think was at a core of it."

Another factor in the recognition was the format change from five rounds to four, Marra said.

"That really created a better formula and encouraged the players to start their season here," Marra said. "It made it easier to get to town, settle in, come practice and play,"

Marra said beating out such events as the Super Bowl and 2011 NBA Finals for the Sports Event of the Year honors has prompted people to ask him "Are you done?"

"No way," he said.

Organizers have the mindset of making the tournament played at PGA West's Palmer and Nicklaus private courses and the La Quinta Country Club the best PGA Tour event of the year, "and that's what we're going to try to do," Marra said.

High winds forced delays during the tournament's third round last year. Marra said organizers have a plan in place.

"We'll be ready for it, we'll be ready for an earthquake if it happens," Marra said. "These days you can't run an event without having a plan."

Tournament officials are excited about the weather forecast for the tournament -- mid-70s, clear and light winds.

"We think it'll be phenomenal, as it often is here, but if it changes we're ready for that," Marra said.

A new element of the tournament are theme days. Today is Seniors' Day, Friday is Women's Day, Saturday is Military Appreciation Day and Sunday is Kids' Day.

"We've got so much going on, and it's for anyone in the valley, not just golfers," Marra said.

Each day will feature discounts, ceremonies and live entertainment at the Palmer course.

On Seniors' Day, attendees will receive a free PGA West golf chip with any purchase in the merchandise tent and pro shop at PGA West, and $2 off "healthy choice" items at concession stands.

PGA Tour legends Billy Casper and Al Geiberger will speak with fans at noon, and well-being company Healthways will conduct a fall prevention seminar and "SilverSneakers" demos. A Frank Sinatra tribute show is also scheduled.

On Women's Day, golfers and fans are encouraged to wear red to support the "Go Red for Women" campaign against heart disease. Red golf shirts and hats will be discounted 15 percent in the merchandise tent and pro shop, and anyone clad in red will get $2 off concession items.

A fashion show, "A Day in the Life of a Golfer," is scheduled at noon, and John Stanley King will perform.

On Military Appreciation Day, the first 2,000 spectators at PGA West will receive a Bob Hope commemorative pin. The day will start with a military-themed musical montage on bagpipes at 8:15 a.m. and end with a military
appreciation ceremony on the 18th green after play ends. Military personnel with valid ID get 15 percent off merchandise and $2 off concessions. Recording artist Kelley James will perform.

Active-duty, reserve and military retirees and their dependents will be admitted free throughout the tournament. For tickets, they must enter the code "Military" on Humana's website. The Humana Military Outpost pavilion, which
will be set up between the first tee and ninth green at the Palmer course at PGA West, will have indoor seating, outdoor patio seating and free food and drinks.

On Kids' Day, the PowerBilt Junior Golf Clinic will be open to all children on the driving range at 11 a.m. Other activities will include golf swing cages, face painting, balloons, a fire engine and The Living Desert's "Wildlife on Wheels" program. Children will also receive $5 off any purchase at Tumbleweeds at La Quinta Resort and $2 off concessions.

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