As I've mentioned before, the beginning of the pro golf tour has always been a vicarious version of spring for me. While we're looking at a forecast predicting snow headed our way, the tour is in Palm Desert for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. The weekend forecast there is for the low 60s, sunny and breezy.
The tournament will be be on the Golf Channel and, in fact, it already is. It's a rare, 90-hole tournament that started yesterday and there are five players tied for the lead. There are a lot of wrinkles to the Hope. One is that it's played over four courses and another is that the pros play with a group of three different amateurs each day until the final round.
I saw this excellent story on the Hope by Bob Harig (which I recommend reading) and how it is among the last of a golf tour breed, meaning tournaments with celebrity associations. The Hope standard has been picked up by comedian George Lopez. The late Bob Hope's name has been on this tournament for more than 40 years. The only other celebrity-associated tournament on the tour this year is in Las Vegas and the entertainer is Justin Timberlake.
Some show biz names that helped prop up tournaments in bygone days were Bing Crosby (the Pebble Beach clambake), Andy Williams (San Diego), Danny Thomas (Memphis), Sammy Davis Jr. (Hartford), Dean Martin (Tuscon) and Jackie Gleason (Fort Lauderdale). Now, tournaments are slapped with the nameplates of phone and insurance and car companies. It's the money, hon.
One of the features of a celebrity-associated tournament was that the namesake celebrity recruited other famous names. So, you'd turn on the TV on a Saturday or a Sunday and see TV and movie stars looking far less in control than they did on stage, with their drives slicing far off the mark (this year, you may catch rocker Alice Cooper, actor Samuel L. Jackson or funnyman Kevin Nealon). As their balls strayed off course, the famous and rich would grimace, look sheepish and crack a joke. Just like the rest of us. Golf was doing what it does best -- teaching humility. And it was fun to watch. And glamorous. And with the snow waiting to be shoveled, it was a welcome armchair escape.
Photo credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP