The Humana Challenge in La Quinta is rapidly turning into more than a golf tournament. Humana, the health benefits provider, and the William J. Clinton Foundation came to the rescue of the former Bob Hope Desert Classic a little more than a year ago. And even though golf is the driving force, health care and saving lives is getting equal billing before, during and after the tournament.
In the second year of an eight-year deal with the PGA Tour, it’s becoming clear that using this tournament as a platform to advocate for healthy lifestyles is more than words on a pamphlet. During former President Clinton’s opening remarks at the Health Matters conference at the La Quinta Resort and Spa, he announced that 31 individuals and organizations have pledged $100 million for a variety of community-based projects to bring the healthy living messages to the public. Among that money is a pledge by the PGA Tour to fund a coordinator between the Clinton Foundation and deserving neighborhood organizations.
"This is the single-most important tournament on tour," nine-time major championship winner Gary Player said at PGA West, where the Humana Challenge is played on the Palmer and Nicklaus Course, as well as nearby La Quinta Country Club. "If I was a professional golfer, I would make it my business to play here … because you are helping get a message through to a country that really needs the message."
Player and Humana Inc. have begun a three-year partnership to promote healthy living through proper diet and exercise, as well as plans to face the increasing challenges of childhood obesity. As part of the partnership, Player will serve as a spokesman for the health care company.
The Humana partnership represents a special addition to Player's 2013 milestone year that includes his 60th anniversary as a professional and the 30th anniversary of his philanthropic endeavor, The Player Foundation.
“Over my 60-year golfing career, I placed great emphasis on fitness and a healthy diet, and at this stage in my life I really see the benefits of my lifelong commitment more than ever,” said Player, 77. “I've been around a long time now and I endorsed a lot of different things throughout my career, but I would say this is probably, in my opinion, the most important contract that I've had, for the simple reason that you're involved in saving people's lives.”
Player also took the opportunity during his pre-tournament message to encourage people to think more about nutrition and fitness, even if it’s just to take a casual stroll.
“Get off your butt and do some walking,” he said, “and I'll guarantee you you'll lose 30 pounds in one year.”