For the first time ever, the American Express golf tournament in La Quinta will not have the three-day pro-am. In its place was the first-ever Charity Challenge.
Two of the top 30 golfers in the world, alongside celebrity partners, battled it out on the back nine of the PGA West Pete Dye Stadium course. The $1 million exhibition match is to support local Coachella Valley charities.
“I’m appreciative of American Express really stepping up and maintaining the level of this event and the charitable contributions, and that’s really where this charitable challenge came from, was them creating opportunities to create charitable dollars and so, I’m appreciative of them thinking outside the box and really trying to keep this tournament elevated as it continues to get better each year,” said tournament host Phil Mickelson.
“I love being an ambassador for American Express. You know, I think that’s an authentic thing for me and when they brought forth, you know, had some ideas a few months ago of potentially having a celebrity matchup or really anything. I told them I’m all in,” said World No. 22 Tony Finau.
Finau partnered with former professional soccer superstar Landon Donovan. The other team was World No. 27 Paul Casey and country music star Jake Owen.
Finau and Donovan played for ‘Youth Development and Education’ charities while Casey and Owen played for ‘Health and Wellness’ charities.
Casey and Owen won, earning $660,000 for their charities. Finau and Donovan raised $340,000.
“Charity is everything, I think, in our game. The PGA Tour has done a tremendous job on the amount and the impact that I think we have on communities,” Finau said.
“The Coachella Valley has been very supportive of this tournament for half a century and the ability to contribute to the people here and many of the local charities that continue to help those in need is an important part of this tournament. It’s an important part of the game of golf and I’m appreciative that we’re able to continue it, even in this time of a pandemic,” said Mickelson.
The World Golf Hall of Famer, Mickelson is emceeing the challenge. Mickelson will participate throughout on "Phil's challenges," which provide the opportunity to raise addition dollars for charity.
“We’re going to have a great time out there, but it’s even better when you know that the money that’s being raised is for a great cause and is going to help others. I love being a part of that and, you know, having a foundation myself, I know what it means,” Finau said.
PGA West’s Director of Golf Chris Caballero was the caddy for the Charity Challenge. When asked what part of the experience stood out most, he said, "Phil’s humor! You know, I mean it seems like everything out of his mouth was a joke, but he had a good time with it. And again, he was very appreciative of everything that’s going on this week and we do appreciate Phil and what he does for the tournament.”
The $6.7 million American Express begins Thursday at the PGA WEST Pete Dye Stadium Course and Nicklaus Tournament Course in La Quinta, awarding $1,134,000 to Sunday’s champion.
GOLF Channel will provide live coverage of each round of The American Express (Thursday-Sunday) from 12-4 p.m. PT.
Stay with KESQ News Channel 3 for complete coverage on-air and online throughout tournament week.