The golf tournament that built a hospital.
For years that was the way many people looked at what was called the Bob Hope Desert Classic, now the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Proceeds from the golf tournament helped with the very beginnings of the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage in the 1960s, and for years the tournament delivered $1 million a year to the hospital that was built on land donated by Bob Hope himself. But as the tournament nears its 59th playing in January, that golf tournament’s charity identification is changing again.
The money for Eisenhower Medical Center was a big connection for the tournament to the desert community for decades. But as the tournament has seen its charitable contributions fall in the last decade, first because of the loss of Chrysler as a sponsor and then as an arrangement with the Clinton Foundation decreased local charity giving, Eisenhower Medical Center saw less and less money from the event.
Instead, the tournament continued to distribute money to about 40 local charities. Those charities ranged from Boys and Girls Clubs to addiction and recovery centers to senior services.
As more and more PGA Tour events focus their charitable giving to a single recipient (think St. Jude’s for the Memphis tournament or the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies for the Arnold Palmer Invitational), it was the charity that gave an identity to the tournament.
That has been missing at the CareerBuilder Challenge for a few years with Eisenhower increasingly out of the picture. So Desert Classic Charities and new tournament operator Lagardere Sports are pushing for a new identity staring next month.
“This year we have made a change,” said tournament executive director Jeff Sanders at the event’s media day this week at PGA West. “We are going to focus on kids in the Coachella Valley. So children’s charities are the focal point of the giving for the first time. We have a little theme we are working on called Golf Fore Kids. And so that’s our focus right now.”
The hope is that the CareerBuilder can now be recognized for a single charitable concept, rather than the wide net the event has been casting in the last few years. Yes, it means that some charities that have been getting money from the tournament will not receive the $20,000 or $25,000 next year. You hope that charities find a way to make up the void.
But focusing on children also dovetails with the Phil and Amy Mickelson Charitable Foundation. Phil Mickelson is the tournament’s ambassador and two-time desert winner as well as a World Golf Hall of Famer. The foundation focused its interest primarily on supporting a variety of youth and family initiatives.
For all of the issues the tournament has had in recent years trying to keep charitable donations at the level they were 10 years ago, the event is still approaching $60 million in donations since the event began in 1960.
“That’s a lot of money. That’s an unbelievable amount of money,” Sanders said. “Most tournaments don’t last five or six years, let alone 60. It’s been a wonderful way to give back here in the community, to have a golf tournament like this.”
Of course, how much those charities receive is the challenge behind the changes coming to the tournament this year, with concerts, new hospitality venues and a focus on an overall fan experience, not just on golf. The more people who buy tickets, the more money that goes to charity.
“At the end of the day, we want to increase our charitable donations from the tournament year after year,” Sanders said. “And we plan to do that.”
Written by Larry Bohannan, posted by The Desert Sun: http://www.desertsun.com/story/sports/golf/careerbuilder/2017/12/16/careerbuilder-challenge-golf-tournament-changes-charity-focus-children/957497001/