In February 1995 serving President of the United States Bill Clinton was joined by former Presidents George Bush and Gerald Ford at the Bob Hope Classic in what was a historic occasion for the PGA Tour. It was the first time that a sitting president had taken part in a PGA event and almost certainly the first time that three former presidents had played alongside each other.
During its peak in the 1970s, it was one of the best paying tournaments on the schedule.
Now known as the CareerBuilder Challenge its total purse current stands at $5.9m. However, it doesn’t come close to matching tournaments such as the Masters ($11m), HSBC Champions ($9.75m) or Mexico Championship ($10m).
Likewise, among a host of changes made back in 2012 was a move away from the celebrity field. While the odd star does still features, such as American football star Robbie Gould back in 2017, the CareerBuilder Challenge no longer promises the big names that it once did. Even the sport’s best of the best have been avoiding the Californian competition recently.
The current organisers don’t publish their attendance figures. However, regular spectators will have noticed the crowds dropping away over the last few years.
Keen to restore the PGA Tour tournament to its former glory, 2018 will see the CareerBuilder Challenge undergo another major renovation.
CareerBuilder Challenge: 2018 changes
Desert Classic Charities has been running the tournament since it first started back in the 1960s. They will still hold control of the tournament this year. However, they have partnered with tournament operator Lagardere in an attempt to return the tournament to its place at the PGA Tour summit.
Lagardere have had success with the Safeway Open since taking over the tournament in 2015 and will hope to perform a similar feat with the CareerBuilder Challenge. Executive director Jeff Sanders has promised an event that “people are going to want to come to”.
That will likely involve converting the tournament from your typical PGA event into some sort of golf festival. Golf tends to take a backseat at Lagardere events, with more effort put into improving the fan experience.
“The focus here is fun. Let’s make a day out of it and let’s hope we have a lot more people here because they want to have a great day, be involved in a fun event and not just here to watch golf,” Sanders told the Desert Sun.
Entertainment over golf
Food and drink will take centre stage at the CareerBuilder Challenge. All fans will have access to a range of bars and eateries dotted around the PGA West Stadium Course.
The 18th Green Vons Fan Pavilion offers 8,000 square feet of space, air conditioning and plenty to eat and drink. Likewise, there are television screens for those that would prefer to be watching the NFL playoffs that clash with the golf tournament.
Spectators can also pay a visit to the Casamigos Club 17 or Michelob Ultra Beers Fore Birdies depending on where they’re watching the action from.
Likewise, Lagardere has also organised a series of concerts throughout. Friday will see classic pop rock band Huey Lewis and the News take to the stage. Goo Goo Dolls will be headlining the tournament on Saturday.
The tournament won’t return to its peak immediately. However, the CareerBuilder Challenge 2018 will be less of a golf tournament and more of a party. It should appeal to a much larger audience than its usual crowd.
With temperatures expected to be around 25 degrees Celsius when the action gets underway on Thursday, Lagardere are undoubtedly feeling hopeful that the move will pay off.
CareerBuilder Challenge 2018: tournament details
The CareerBuilder Challenge 2018 will get underway on Thursday, 18 January and run until Sunday, 21 January.
The tournament will be held across the PGA West Stadium Course, PGA West Course and La Quinta Country Club in la Quinta, California. A field of impressive pros will take to the greens this week. Among those competing are Farmers Insurance Open winner Jon Rahm, Wells Fargo Championship champion Brian Harman and current holder Hudson Swafford.
Tickets for the tournament are still available via the CareerBuilder Challenge website. Daily tickets will set you back by $30. Alternatively, week passes are available for $75.