In 2017, there will quite a few changes taking place at the annual local PGA Tour event that many of us still call the Bob Hope Classic.
For the second year, the tournament—celebrating its 58th year in January—is officially called the CareerBuilder Challenge. However, the Clinton Foundation, which had played a role in the tournament since 2012, is no longer involved—and there’s a new man in charge, too.
The tournament will be run by a self-described “golf nerd”—Dallas native Nick Raffaele, 53. Raffaele has extensive golf-industry experience and was upbeat about the tournament.
“I am a glass-half-full kind of guy,” he said. “I salute the work done by (previous sponsor) Humana in helping stabilize the event. We here in the Coachella Valley are lucky to have a PGA Tour event because of our size and population. We are basically in a rural area, and without some great work previously done, who knows if the tournament would be here?”
Raffaele was not shy about addressing complaints from some about the Clinton Foundation’s association with the tournament, which concluded last year.
“The (Clinton Foundation) was brought in by their partnership with Humana, not by the PGA,” Raffaele said. “Again, I believe the community owes a deep debt of gratitude to Humana for stepping in” when the tournament faced an uncertain future. “We will continue to make sure this event serves local charities. It is part of our mission statement.”
In 2017, the event will also have a new ambassador—golfing great Phil Mickelson. Mickelson recently underwent surgery for a sports hernia, and at this time, it’s not clear whether Mickelson will be able to play in the tourney. Regardless, Raffaele is not concerned.
“We want Phil playing at 100 percent,” he said. “As crazy as it sounds, it may be beneficial if he can just stay and hear and learn up-close everything the tournament encapsulates.
“Both Phil and the CareerBuilder Challenge expect a long and lasting partnership. Phil is committed 100 percent, and when you talk about the current stars of golf, few get any bigger.”
One of the things Raffaele praises about the event is the on-site volunteer staff.
“The people who volunteer are the ones who see the value in the tournament being here in the Coachella Valley,” Raffaele said. “We couldn’t do it without them. We want them to know they are important. The other day, I was with Lee Morcus of Kaiser Grille, and he was extremely gracious in donating gift cards for our volunteers, totally unsolicited. It is that kind of spirit that makes this tournament what it is.”
The CareerBuilder Challenge kicks off on Thursday, Jan. 19, with play at three courses in the East Valley. A whole week of events begins Monday, Jan. 16. For tickets, event information and details on deals for locals, visit www.careerbuilderchallenge.com.
Steve Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.