Tuesday, July 5

The Quiet End of Celebrity-Named Tour Events

AS ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK, the Bob Hope Classic is now the Humana Challenge, which will be a four-round 72-hole event instead of the five-round 90-hole marathon that made the Hope unique. Celebrities certainly have their exalted place in American society, but their famous names can’t pay the multi-million dollar bills on the PGA Tour.

“The reality of it is that having celebrities’ names attached to these tournaments may have at some point driven notoriety,” David Carter, executive director of USC’s Sports Business Institute, told the Los Angeles Times, “but in this era, you need to have cash.”

Goodbye, Hope. Hello, Humana. It really was inevitable.

It’s kind of amazing that the Bob Hope Classic outlived Bob Hope as long as it did. (The comedy legend died in 2003.) The tournament’s genesis was the Palm Springs Desert Classic, which started in 1960. It became the Bob Hope Desert Classic in 1965. Billy Casper won the first Hope. It was Arnold Palmer’s last PGA Tour victory in 1973, although I’m sure 43-year-old Arnold expected to win again. From 1986 to 2008, the tournament was sponsored by Chrysler and called the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

You may remember other long-gone celeb tour events: the Crosby, Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open, Andy Williams San Diego Open, Dinah Shore Invitational, Danny Thomas Memphis Classic and Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open. Now they sound so quaint. (I guess we still have Justin Timberlake.)

Not all Hope is lost. Humana will award their tournament winner a newly created Bob Hope Trophy, so that’s good. The health-insurance company also plans to keep the Hope family involved.

I read that Bob Hope’s joke file is 85,000 scanned pages. You can bet he would crack a good one about last week’s Humana news. I have no idea what it would be, so I’ll leave you with this Hope one-liner:

“If you watch a game, it’s fun. If you play it, it’s recreation. If you work at it, it’s golf.”

−The Armchair Golfer


Jordan J. Caron said...

When I started to watch golf back in the mid 90's, this use to be a huge event for the players and fans. As the celebrities attending the event began to diminish, it seemed that the hype around the event slowly died.

Then with ABC with drawing their names from PGA Tour coverage the event never got picked up by CBS or NBC. This caused Golf Channel to cover all 5 rounds and they don't reach the same large audience.

I wonder if GC will continue to cover the event.

The Armchair Golfer said...

You're right. The Hope used to be a big deal. Tiger never played in it (that I can remember) but Phil did. It was an important event on the West Coast Swing.