The crowd on the Arnold Palmer Private course was pretty thin during the first two days of last weekend’s Humana Challenge Golf Tournament. In fact, during Thursday’s first round of play, only Canadian Mike Weir attracted a sizable fan following—composed mostly of his snowbird countrymen and women.
But during Saturday’s third round (Jan. 18), the crowd was noticeably larger. One of the largest galleries was following the U.S. pro pairing of Zach Johnson (arguably the hottest golfer on the tour) and Keegan Bradley (winner of the 2011 PGA Championship major title).
Along for the ride in the foursome: Coachella Valley amateur competitors Ralph Hemingway and Ed Michaels.
“I’ve played the last eight years with the (Bob) Hope Tournament and now the Humana,” Ralph Hemingway told me after his round. “And right now, I’d say the format of the Humana is the best of any of the pro-ams I’ve ever played at.”
The traditional pro-am format for decades had three amateurs playing with one PGA Tour pro in each foursome, and the tournament stretched over five days and 90 holes of competition.
“This is the second year that they’ve changed to a four-day, 1-on-1 (pros and amateurs) format. And being able to play with a different pro each day is just fantastic,” explained Hemingway. “You talk to the pros. … They felt like an oddball with a pro and three amateurs. Now they’ve got another pro to walk with, and somebody in the same tee box.” (Amateur competitors play from a tee box closer to the hole than the pros do.)
Back in the days of the Bob Hope Desert Classic, the tournament was known for the multitude of entertainers and celebrities who showed up to play as amateurs—attracting lots of star-gazers to the fairways.
“People would come to watch the celebrities … not the golf, just the celebrities,” Hemingway recalled. “People with the tournament ask me quite a bit if I miss the celebrities, and I said I really don’t. Celebrities are celebrities. I’m not really a celebrity nut anyway. They can play their game, and I’ll play mine.”
Does he plan on going back to play in the 2015 Humana Challenge?
“Oh sure, I’ll be there,” said Hemingway. “No doubt about it. I’ve played in the Dinah Shore and the Frank Sinatra, and I keep coming back to the Humana. They’ve done a lot of great charity work, and that’s a real factor.”
One last question for Hemingway: Is he related to Ernest?
“Yeah we’re fourth-cousins, and I have a collection of first-edition printings of all his books.”
Scroll down to see a few shots of Hemingway in action.