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Humana Challenge: New year, lasting legacy

Published On: Dec 05 2012 03:40:27 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 05 2012 07:15:00 PM CST

LA QUINTA, Calif -- -

It's the 54th consecutive year of PGA Tour golf in the Coachella Valley.

We have the views..  the weather.. the courses.. but behind those ... is a lasting legacy.

Humana, in partnership with The Clinton Foundation, took over the "Bob Hope Classic Golf Tournament" in 2012 -- knowing they had big shoes to fill. 2013 is no different.

"We feel very privileged to carry on the legacy of Bob Hope, who is justifiably a legend in the valley, in the world, for what he did for the military and the place he loved so much," says Tom Noland, Senior VP of Corporate Communications at Humana.

New this year, veterans will get in free to the tournament, and there will be an exhibit dedicated to hope at the palm springs air museum.

Also, a replica of a popular golf party will be aimed at the younger crowd.

"This year we're going to do our version of "The Bird's Nest" like they do in Phoenix," said Bob Marra, new CEO and Tournament Director, "which is a giant party on the 16th hole over there, the par 3 hole. Any golf fan knows it."

Not new this year -- big name athletes.

"We've got a commitment from Phil Mickelson already," said Marra, "and Brandt Snedeker who's number nine in the world."

Also playing for the million-dollar prize (1,008,000, to be exact) last year's Humana Champion, Mark Wilson.

Wilson says his most memorable moment in golf was right on the 18th green at the Humana.

"it was my fifth tournament win... I'm sorry.. It's tough being away from my family.. But it's the first time they came up to me on the green as I made a winning put," he said, holding back tears.

Humana will offer free health screenings to attendees and new food options.

A recipe that's working.

Attendance, and TV viewership went up since the company took over the tournament.

"It's another example of the world watching the Coachella Valley, and like what they see!" exclaimed Marra.

Singer Tony Bennett will perform at the welcome party, but no big-named stars will be announced as players at this time.

The golf event raises money for Coachella Valley charities, primarily Eisenhower Medical Center. During the
past 53 years, the tournament has generated more than $52 million in donations to charities, $2.1 million from the 2012 tournament.

The 2013 Humana Challenge is scheduled for scheduled for January 14-20 in La Quinta.

Follow Samantha on Twitter: @SamanthaCortese