No celebrities at Humana Challenge

La Quinta, Calif. - Celebrity has always been one of the biggest attractions at the deserts PGA tournament.

Even after Bob Hope's death in 2003, big name actors like Samuel L. Jackson and pro athletes like Pete Sampras would come play in the event and draw big crowds.

"It would be nice if there were more celebrities here," said golf fan, Gary Hill. "If there were celebrities playing like it used to be with the Bob Hope."

This is the first year there will be no celebrity field in the Humana Challenge.

"President Clinton is our celebrity," Humana Challenge CEO, Bob Marra said. "He brings so much to it."

Clinton's involvement as host, and Humana's involvement as title sponsor have shifted the focus of the tournament squarely on health and well being. Marra says the event's move away from celebrity golfers has been nothing but a positive for the tournament.

"Ticket sales are up 40 percent over last year at the same time," Marra said. "What that tells me is, it hasn't had an impact to our audience."

The event has gone through many changes in the last decade. From the sponsor, to the format, the courses, and the host.

Chad Campbell won what was then the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic at Classic Club in 2006.

"It's always been a great tournament," Campbell said. "It's very special to me."

Campbell said he's okay with the lack of celebrities in the tournament.

"You know, it's either way," Campbell said. "It was always fun playing with them. But you get to meet a lot of good guys (amateurs) out here and make a lot of friendships. It's a fun format, and I think everybody enjoys it."

The amateurs who play alongside the professionals remain the backbone of the tournament. About 150 of them pay $29 thousand dollars each to play with the pros Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. In years past, about 20 of those spots would be given to celebrities who did not pay to play. The difference is more than half a million dollars that will go to charity.

"It costs a lot of money to provide the celebrities, rather than sell those spots to people who want to come in from around the country and play in it because its so unique and special," Marra said. "So that money all goes to charity. So we felt it was the appropriate time."

One thing that hasn't changed over the years, is the appeal to be in the beautiful desert on a warm sunny day.

"Our plan 'B' is to be in Chicago right now," said visiting golf fan, Eric Puetze.  "So, anything is better than Chicago. We're just fine where we're at. We're looking forward to chilling out and watching some cool golf in a beautiful setting."

While there is not a celebrity field of golfers, the tournament has invited a handful of "special guests" who embody the health and wellness mission of the Humana Challenge. Golf Channel personality Holly Sonders, NFL kicker Jay Feely, and singer Michael Bolton are this year's special guests.

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