Sponsor, course changes coming for Humana

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LA QUINTA, Calif. – The Humana Challenge is poised for even more changes.

After Sunday’s final round, the tournament will lose not only its title sponsor, but two of the three courses in the rotation.

Humana is ending its relationship after this year’s event, but tournament director and CEO Bob Marra said Sunday that he expects the announcement of a new title sponsor “soon.”

“It’s a business deal that’s being consummated,” he said.

PGA West’s Palmer Private (which stages the finale and has been a part of the tournament for all but three years since 1988) and Nicklaus Private will no longer be part of the rotation. The third course, La Quinta Country Club, is expected to stay.

There is talk in the area that the tournament will simply move across the street, to the other two courses at PGA West, the Nicklaus Tournament course and the TPC Stadium course, which has previously hosted PGA Tour Q-School, most recently in 2012.

“We’re far along in discussions about what to do,” Marra said. “I think people will be pleased with the result. It’s just a matter of getting the deal done.”

But it’s hard to ignore that the Palm Springs-area event is preparing for even more significant changes. Since 2012, the tournament name has changed from the Bob Hope Classic to the Humana Challenge, former President Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation stepped in to form a new partnership, the format of the event shifted from five days to four, and the amateurs in the field were trimmed from 384 to 156. Even so, attendance is up at this year’s Humana and the field is the best in years.  

“It hasn’t been easy,” Marra said. “It’s been a challenge. But what I know about our next wave of activity with the new deal that we’re going to have and the courses, we have a lot of momentum.”  

One thing not changing next year is former President Clinton’s involvement. The tournament’s contract with the Clinton Foundation runs through 2018, and the foundation has a staff that works on the Health Matters initiative on a year-round basis.

“President Clinton loves this tournament,” Marra said. “Interacting with the players, being out here with us, it carries on his relationship with Bob Hope that he had, I don’t think he would miss it. There’s no discussion about that at all.”

During the first three years that his foundation was involved, Clinton attended the tournament early in the week but was pulled away over the weekend. This year, his Health Matters conference is scheduled for Monday, which allows him to watch the action during both weekend rounds and be on-hand for the trophy presentation.   

“I think this tournament has, in spite of certain challenges here and there, really reached a certain level of momentum that we’re really happy about and proud of,” Marra said.