By Steve Payne
"Golf is a funny game. It's done much for health, and at the same time has ruined people by robbing them of their peace of mind. Look at me, I'm the healthiest idiot in the world." –Bob Hope.
Humana, a company devoted to making peoples lives healthier, took over the Bob Hope Classic in 2012. Spectators, volunteers, and players are provided with free pedometers to count the steps they take in the duration of the tournament. Humana rewards participants for healthy activities they do through out the challenge, such as peddling “blender bikes,” a bicycle that blends a smoothie of your choice, walking 5,000 steps, or even pledging to quit a bad habit. “This tournament is the single most important tournament on the tour,” said Gary Player, a PGA player well known for his health and fitness, as well as his golf. He, and , Bo Van Pelt, a Humana-endorsed pro golfer, went on to tell how anyone can use their everyday life to live a healthy lifestyle.
I arrived at PGA West with Chris Keener, the program director at The First Tee, and Karah Shouse, the First Tee’s other junior reporter. We picked up our media credentials and were directed to the media room, where I was surprised to see our names on our table, next to names like The Desert Sun, Los Angeles Times, Getty Images, and many other big names.
Shortly after we got comfortable in the media room we had the opportunity to meet and interview Brett Quigley, who has been in the PGA for 16 years but a stress fracture in 2008 has kept him from playing golf until very recently. This will be his first tournament since the injury. He says he has been playing good and feels better as well. “The leg doesn’t bother me as much swinging, but physically standing on it. I am 60 percent there. I don’t need 100, but I’d like 85 percent .” Quigley said addressing his leg. “We will see how this week plays out and go from there.”
After the interview we met up with Larry Bohannan, the senior golf writer and columnist for The Desert Sun. He has been a part of this tournament for almost 30 years, and seemed to know everyone we ran into. He knew everything there was to know about the workings of the tournament. We walked with him to the driving range, where we got a behind-the-ropes look at the range and putting green.
We saw a few players on the range, one being Jesper Parnevik, a Swedish pro who won the Humana Challenge in 2000. After checking out the range and admiring the player’s flawless swings, we grabbed lunch. Before we could sit down, Bohannan introduced us to Jerry Green, who is a sports writer from Detroit, and is one of four people to cover every single Super Bowl.
Next we had some free time to walk around and check out some of the booths. I got a chance to ride a blender bike and made myself a mango smoothie at the Humana tent.
Carson Daly, the host of “The Voice” on NBC, showed up in the pressroom and we were able to sit in on the interview and ask questions. Daly’s family lives in the desert and he went to college at College of the Desert, in Palm Desert. Daly commented on The First Tee saying, “I wasn’t allowed to play on the course until I learned the core values and morals that are taught at The First Tee.”
He has used golf to better his relationship with his father, closing the interview by expressing his love of golf and talking about how his life would have differed if he chose golf as a career instead of television.
I had a great experience today, meeting people, seeing players, and getting access to places that only media get to use. As I was writing earlier, a class from The First Tee came through the media room, and I remembered doing that my first year participating in The First Tee. It is a great feeling to go from that time to be sitting at the reporter table that I am now. It once again showed me how much The First Tee has done for me the entire time I have been involved in it.
By Steve Payne
I didn’t have a lot of time today, from when I sat down at my reporter’s table, to the announcement that former President Bill Clinton, would be in the pressroom. Unlike other interviews, when the press would enter right after the previous one being, the room was packed twenty minutes before Tim Finchem, Mike McCallister, and President Clinton arrived. First, Bob Marra, the executive director and CEO of the Humana Challenge greeted everyone and introduced Chairman of the Board of Humana, Mike McCallister.
McCallister said that there was a 68 percent increase in attendance last year. “Outside of the majors, we had the sixth best field in the PGA Tour.” McCallister also told the press, “We received the Sports Event of the Year, which is remarkable because we had to compete with the Super Bowl.”
Next to speak behind the podium covered in FedEx Cup, Humana, and Clinton Foundation Logos, was Tim Finchem, the Commissioner of the PGA TOUR. Finchem said a few words about the meaning of the Humana Challenge, and emphasized the health and wellness aspect of the tournament.
Next up was President Clinton himself. The first question was asked by a writer for Sports Illustrated. “Mr. President, what is your stance on the proposed ban on…the long putter?” The audience, myself included, couldn’t help laughing out loud. Five other people were able to ask questions before President Clinton ran out of time.
I was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to ask him a question when I had the chance, so I did what all media does, and followed him. When he briefly looked up from meeting fans, and signing autographs, I introduced myself. I told him that a big part of my experience in The First Tee was building relationships with my adult mentors. I asked him if he had any mentors playing golf in his youth.
“I had several actually. I had two Sunday school teachers who went out of their way to help me, especially when they knew I was having a tough time,” he said. He went on to mention other mentors he had, such as his great uncle, and his band director.
“My band director was an unbelievable human being. He was my friend til the day he died. And to no small measure, because he believed in me since I was a little boy and helped me to grow up.” I chatted with him one-on-one for a couple of minutes, and then thanked him for his time.
Just as I started to walk away from the president, Crystal Chatham, the photojournalist from The Desert Sun, introduced herself to me and asked my name. She told me that she liked how I approached Mr. Clinton and got myself an exclusive interview. Ms. Chatham told me that she would try to get a picture of my talking with Clinton in the newspaper’s photo gallery.
Karah and I then got the opportunity to interview Gary Player, a South African golf legend. He hit the ceremonial opening drive off of the first hole of the Palmer Private Course today. His main focus is on being healthy. He is 77 years old, and does 1,000 sit-ups every day!
“Your main message to young people should be to exercise and to eat properly.” Player talked to us about his travels. “I’ve traveled more miles now, then any human being that has ever lived.”
I followed that by asking where his favorite golf course in the world was. He responded, “There is a golf course in South Africa called Leopard Creek; and while you play, you can see the lions, elephants, hippos, and crocodiles. It is amazing to play a course with that kind of ambiance.” We got to take a picture with him, and then we had some time to walk around, check out booths, and enjoy the 73-degree weather.
We were invited to go on the air with Julie Buehler and her co-host Geoff Blume. She has a radio show called “Buehler’s Day Off” that airs on 1010 KXPS AM radio. She asked us about the Junior Reporter Program that we are in, and about what we have been doing with our time at Humana. I was a little nervous to go on air, but as soon as we started talking, I realized that it was just like having a normal conversation. I told her how I got involved with The First Tee and how grateful I was to get this opportunity. Buehler was very funny and I really enjoyed getting to go on her show.
We walked to the 10th hole of the Nicklaus Private Course, where we met Saul Martinez, a wounded warrior and amateur golfer. Martinez is a double leg amputee, as a result of an IED on his tour in Afghanistan. A year and a half after his injury, he started playing golf. He usually plays with Nebula, his Great Dane, who walks the course with him. Nebula was too tired to walk with him after their long round yesterday, so she got to stay in the hotel today.
When asked what challenges he faced golfing with his injury, he responded, “Definitely balance and staying steady, hip rotation is a also a huge one. It is hard to stay down on the ball.”
Karah asked him how he liked playing in the desert. “There is about four feet of snow on the ground at my house, so I really enjoy playing here, in such great weather,” he said, referring to his Montana home. It was very humbling to meet a man who constantly has a smile on his face and a very positive outlook on life and golf, after such an unfortunate event.
Today is my last day as a junior reporter, but it might not be my last as part of the media. I have learned so much over the past two days being a part of the Humana Challenge. I hadn’t given journalism much thought before this tournament, but after seeing how interesting and fun it is to meet new people, and really learn their stories, I will look further into it as a career.
I would like to give a huge thank you to Chris Keener, the Director of Golf at The First Tee, and The First Tee as a whole, for this unbelievable opportunity. I also want to thank the PGA TOUR and Humana, for making this tournament possible, and bettering peoples lives in the process.
About Steve Payne
Steve Payne, age 17, is a junior at Palm Desert High School. He has been an honor roll student through out high school. He lives in Desert Horizons Country Club in Indian Wells. He has participated in The First Tee since his freshman year where he has been a member of The First Tee of the Coachella Valley Golf Team, plays at the Classic Course, and volunteers on Saturday mornings to help instruct younger participants. Steve is also a member of the OGA, and has played since pee wee days in the Northeast Oregon Junior Golf Association's summer tournaments. This summer he won their 16-18 junior division.
Steve grew up in La Grande, Oregon where he is a member of La Grande Country Club, and returns there in the summer months. He became an accomplished photographer, showed an early artistic talent, and developed a keen interest in downhill skiing, soccer, fishing and golf. He won first prize for his 4-H reptile display at the Oregon State Fair. He was an acolyte for many years at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and worked as a junior camp counselor at Ascension Summer School in Cove, Oregon. He had a lawn mowing business from 2005 through 2010. This past summer he worked at 10 Depot, a La Grande restaurant.He moved with his family to the Coachella Valley at the start of his freshman year. He is a Birdie level participant with The First Tee and continues to pursue video photography and art. He has been employed as a web page designer for a local realtor.
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