PGA Tour: Clinton Was Our Idea!

Yesterday when John Strege reported Joe Ogilvie's suggestion that Bill Clinton and his Global Initiative could help jumpstart the Bob Hope, he clearly ruffled feathers in Ponte Vedra, where they oxford shirt set rolled up their sleeves and spent Friday evening crafting a statement to let the scribes in La Quinta know they were already on the Clinton initiative!
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The Annual Anthony Kim-Snubs-Childhood-Hometown-Event-Update

This is only fun to recall since it was Kim who complained about tournament directors not returning his calls, who received one of those calls and an invite to the 2007 Bob Hope in his hometown, and who now makes sure to pass on the event. Including this week, even though he's been spotted around town, reports John Strege.
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Flash: Tournaments Were At Desert Courses To Sell Real Estate, Not For Architectural Sophistication

Larry Bohannan considers the decline of greater Palm Springs golf events from as many as six a year (remember the Lexus Challenge!?). You'll be shocked, shocked to find out that most of it has to do with selling real estate, something they aren't doing much of there these days.
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"The Hope has a '100 percent' chance of surviving but that a move to the Champions Tour is a possibility, which may or may not meet your definition of survival."

John Hawkins considers the future of the Bob Hope Classic and reports a couple of intriguing items:

Word on the street is that singer/actor Justin Timberlake, whose hands-on involvement with the Las Vegas tour stop transformed it into a Fall Series success, wants a bigger piece of the action and would love moving to the third week of the regular season if the spot became available.

Interestingly enough, Timberlake ditched the 72-hole pro-am format as soon as he slapped his name on the Vegas event, the first of several moves that indicate he means business. After swearing he'd never do another hit-and-giggle at Pebble, JT will return to the AT&T next month, trudge through a few six-hour rounds and sign lots of autographs for the ladies. It never hurts to help the tour if you want the tour to help you.

That said, the same source told me yesterday that the Hope has a "100 percent" chance of surviving but that a move to the Champions Tour is a possibility, which may or may not meet your definition of survival. The right thing to do is to fix it and leave it on the big tour, which prospered immensely from the Hope's popularity before becoming the big business it is today.

He's right about that. Of course the people who need to do the fixing are the ones who put the event in this position, despite what Hawkins writes:

By bringing the Classic Club into the rota in 2006, the competitive dynamic was altered, the product compromised by what was, more or less, an honest mistake.

No, it was a mistake. Let's refresh memories!

Thomas Bonk, writing about the impending demise of Indian Wells and the concerns about low scoring, January, 2004:

Indian Wells Country Club has ranked as the easiest course on the PGA Tour for the last three years and nine times since they began keeping that statistic in 1983. And at 6,478 yards, it’s also the shortest course on the PGA Tour. Tournament officials might be looking for a replacement course.

“Obviously, there is an issue out here,” said John Foster, a member of the tournament’s five-person board of directors as well as a past president. “But we don’t have a better option.

“As technology evolves, we have to look at the issue. We will have to make some tough decisions.”

A year later it was gone, and Bonk reported on the new NorthStar development, which became The Classic Club.

NorthStar, which occupies 220 acres at Cook Road and Interstate 10, will measure about 7,600 yards and can accommodate a crowd of 10,000 at its amphitheater setting at the 18th green.

“After 45 years, we had to review and we’re making changes that are substantial,” Foster said. “I think they’re going to be well received. We want to step up in the world of golf, and what we’re doing will take us to another level.”

Yes, another level alright.

Someone panicked because of low scores and the impact of technology on an event that was never meant to be an early season U.S. Open. The PGA Tour signed off on The Classic Club, SilverRock and the overall desire to change the rotation for reasons only they can explain.

"When you play golf in Palm Springs they say that everything breaks toward Indio — you know, the Mexican neighborhood. Not this time."

David Feherty on the ouster of George Lopez as host of this week's Bob Hope Classic:

This year's event will be hosted by Arnold Palmer, who may be the most important person ever to play golf. I love everything about Arnold, and I'm not upset at all that he is involved, but I am seriously disturbed at the way George Lopez was treated. After all the effort he put in, he was told in a two-minute phone call that his services were no longer needed. That was it.

Now, maybe they just didn't like George's sense of humor, and that's their right. Of course, Palm Springs is, to say the very least, a Republican refuge, and most of George's cronies are (and I'm looking for a politically correct way to say this, but it's not coming to me) uh... not exactly white, and Democratically inclined. In fact, I might be George's token white friend, I'm not sure. But wasn't Sammy Davis Jr. a friend of Bob's? He used to play, and I think he was both black and Jewish!

I think there's a perception problem here. Most white people in this country have no idea how huge George Lopez is in the Latino community. Just like the Irish, Italians, Jews, Poles, Germans, Scandinavians, and other immigrants of old who started new lives in the New World, Latinos are doing the same, but with less representation and lower self-esteem. These people look up to George Lopez, who at two years old was abandoned by his parents, left to fend for himself, and eventually taken in by his authoritarian grandmother and raised with no love. From almost nothing, George became a huge star, only the third Latino (after Desi Arnaz and Freddie Prinze) to have his own TV show, and he now has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Okay Feherty, you had me until the bit about the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Where, after all, even John Tesh has a star.

"Lopez had many fans among the players, including Weir"

Thomas Bonk, writing about the state of the West Coast Swing, notes the moribund state of the Bob Hope Classic and this about the bizarre removal of George Lopez as celebrity host:

Arnold Palmer, who won the first Hope 50 years ago, is coming back this month to serve as honorary host, and that's a nice touch. Palmer replaces, at least in title, comedian George Lopez, who was unceremoniously dumped after tournament officials were somehow shocked to learn that Lopez tends to track toward, well, edgy humor, even though that's been his act his entire career. Lopez had many fans among the players, including Weir, who isn't going to play in the celebrity field to make his feelings known.

Classic Club Returned To Its Rightful Owners

The final chapter in the boondoggle that should never have been allowed to happen had anyone involved thought this one through...


Bob Hope Classic Charities/Desert Classic Charities and The Berger Foundation Working Together Toward Shared Charitable Goals

La Quinta, Calif. (December 10, 2008) - Due to the current slowing economy, the Bob Hope Classic Charities/Desert Classic Charities and the H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation have decided the responsibility of the Classic Club operations and ownership shall be returned to the Berger Foundation.

“The Classic Club golf facility has always been dedicated to charitable endeavors in and for the Coachella Valley,” said John Foster, president of The Bob Hope Classic Charities, Inc. and Desert Classic Charities, Inc. “We believe that goal can best be accomplished by the Berger Foundation in this economic climate.”

The Classic Club was formally gifted by the H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation to the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in January 2005. The Bob Hope Classic Charities/Desert Classic Charities recognize ownership and management of the Classic Club operations by the Berger Foundation at this time will enable better charitable options for the course and facility. The Classic Charities and the Berger Foundation are committed to the success of the Classic Club and the charitable benefits it can bring to the Coachella Valley.

“Our commitment and association with the Bob Hope Classic Charities and the Desert Classic Charities has been a gratifying experience for all involved through the years and will continue,” said Ronald M. Auen, president and chief executive officer, H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation. “As we move forward into the next phase for the Classic Club, we will strive to achieve even greater charitable success and long term benefits for the entire community.”

With Edgy Lopez Out Of The Way, D-Listers Return In Droves To Hope Classic

George Lopez opened up his Rolodex to lure some surprising celebrity names in recent years to the moribund Bob Hope Classic, but now that he's been run off for being too edgy and Arnold Palmer is temporarily in his place as host, here return the has beens, lightweights and Classic Club haters.


D.J. Trahan returns to defend his second PGA TOUR title

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Former Major League Baseball and National Football League standout Bo Jackson, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman and 2008 American League Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria, and famed musicians Huey Lewis and Michael Bolton are among the initial celebrity athletes and entertainers joining golf legend Arnold Palmer for the 50th Bob Hope Chrysler Classic Hosted by Arnold Palmer, Jan. 19-25, 2009.

Other early celebrity participants for the Classic, a desert tradition since 1960, include: musicians Alice Cooper, Don Felder (formerly of the Eagles), Josh Kelley and country singer Clay Walker, actors Kurt Russell, Chris O’Donnell, Thomas Gibson, Oliver Hudson and Jeffrey Donovan, actor/comedian Kevin Nealon, actor/game show host John O’Hurley, timeless New York Yankees baseball legend Yogi Berra, comedian Tom Dreesen, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback and sportscaster Dan Fouts, Hall of Fame sportscaster Keith Jackson, television financial host Joe Kernen, Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson, former Green Bay Packers wide receiver and NFL analyst Sterling Sharpe, and former Vice President Dan Quayle. The celebrity field’s schedule is as follows: Wednesday, Jan. 21, SilverRock Resort; Thursday, Jan. 22, Bermuda Dunes Country Club; Friday, Jan. 23, Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West; Saturday, Jan. 24, Arnold Palmer Private Course at PGA WEST.

Classic Club, R.I.P.

Larry Bohannan reports The Classic Club's role as a now-former Bob Hope Classic venue. About that name...oh, sorry:

The change in courses was necessary given PGA Tour pros' increasing and sometimes vocal criticism that Classic Club could be too windy during the event's January dates.
“For the good of the tournament, to protect the field, we felt like we ought to react,” said John Foster, longtime board member of the Hope tournament.
The course changes help to centralize the Hope as a La Quinta tournament. In addition to the Nicklaus course, the Palmer Private Course at PGA West will again be used and will serve as the site of the Sunday-only pros round.
The Nicklaus Private will be a real player favorite too! Wait until they bounce a shot off the rocks Jack put in front of the greens.

Love this doublespeak:

“The Berger Foundation understands the rotation adjustment for the 50th anniversary tournament and is anticipating added events for the Classic Club that will add financial support for valley charities along with the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic event,” said Ron Auen of the Berger Foundation in a statement announcing the course changes.
For a good chuckle, you might want to go back and relive some of the finer moments in Classic Club lore.

There was Bohannan's claim that the wind there wasn't any different than at Harbour Town and that everyone was just nutty not to love the place.

Tim Finchem praised the place for providing the facilities to "effectively market the tournament." Yep that was some marketing centerpiece. Good call Tim!

And there was Tod Leonard quoting Hope Tournament Director Mike Milthorpe at length about how wind was no different at the Classic Club than the other courses

Then there was the $500,000 they sunk into this ship and the PGA-qualified course debate.

And finally, there was this today from Bohannan which belongs on The Classic Club's tombstone:
Know this about Classic Club. It's a very good golf course. From tee to green, the course flows well, challenges golfers with hills and lakes and bunkers and has features like pine straw that aren't duplicated on any course in the desert.

"It was like the Hope Classic in that way."

From T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times:

Played in George Lopez's National Kidney Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic and when I mentioned Andruw Jones' name, Lopez said, "A Dodger uniform just doesn't look good with a cummerbund."

In 2005 Lopez received a kidney from his wife, Ann, who tripped while coming onto the stage after the tournament dinner. "Don't fall," he told her, "I might need the other one."

For the last two years Lopez had tried to breathe some life into the Bob Hope Classic, which no longer featured an interesting field of golfers and celebrities.

Lopez was apparently too edgy for the folks who don't know a dying tournament when they have one, and so Lopez will no longer be affiliated with the Hope.

As a result, the Kidney Classic has a new host, the first tournament drawing such incredible stars as Frank Pace, R.J. Jarimillo, NinoCuccinello and Bryan Callen.

I know one of them was a star, because the tournament assigned a celebrity to every fivesome, part of the fun of the whole day guessing which one of our guys used to be somebody. It was like the Hope Classic in that way.

Palmer To Host 50th Hope Classic; Will Finally Get To See The Classic Club In Person

Oh I'm sure he's been there many times. Probably slaved over the details of each hole. Anyway, the news that will not improve the field unless The King trades Bay Hill exemptions for appearances at the Hope, but which will ensure several hours of bantering with Kelly Tilghman and Nick Faldo

The man who won the event five times will host its 50th anniversary next year
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Golf and Palm Springs icon Arnold Palmer will host the 50th anniversary of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, to be played Jan. 19-25, 2009.
Palmer has not only played the tournament 42 of its 50 years, he also won five of his 62 PGA TOUR titles there, including his last, and he’s as much a staple of the Coachella Valley as the tournament itself.
“We can’t think of a more appropriate person to help us celebrate our 50th year of this wonderful event,” said Bob Hope Chrysler Classic President Dave Erwin. “In addition to his success as a player here, Arnold’s classic style and unmatched connection to his adoring fans helped us reach such an honorable milestone. We feel privileged to have him as our host for this special year and know that Bob would agree.”
“It was very special to me when I was asked to serve as the host of next year’s 50th anniversary Bob Hope Chrysler Classic,” said Palmer, who won the inaugural event in 1960. “I enjoyed some of my greatest success in the Hope in the early years and have loved the Palm Springs area ever since I first went there. I consider it a great honor to follow in the footsteps of Bob Hope as host of this wonderful tournament, which has been a mainstay on the PGA Tour for so many years. I thought the world of Bob Hope and spent many priceless hours with him on and off the golf course.”
Palmer’s 62 career wins – seven majors – rank him fifth on the all-time wins list, but it was his go-for-broke style and approachable, charismatic personality that made him a fan favorite.

Hope Classic Puts Dollar Figure On George Lopez's Humiliation and Pro-Am Suffering: $60,000

Wow, guess they didn't think the press was that negative if they only coughed up $60k: 

Charitable contribution will cover expenses for three Kidney Early Evaluation Program screenings in the Coachella Valley, accommodating 300 participants
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The Bob Hope Chrysler Classic announced it will make a $60,000 donation to the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California in the name of 2007 and 2008 tournament host George Lopez and his wife, Ann – the foundation’s national spokespeople.
The contribution, taken from the tournament’s Special Grants Fund, will go towards the foundation’s Kidney Early Evaluation Program (KEEP) – designed to screen those at increased risk for kidney disease because of high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney disease – and will fit the bill for three screenings in the Coachella Valley, accommodating 300 participants.
Since the inception of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in 1960, the tournament has donated over $45.5 million to charities throughout the Coachella Valley. In 2007, over $1.6 million was raised for charity, and at least as much charitable contribution is expected for 2008.
“Our chief mission is to give back to the community that hosts and supports the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic,” tournament President Dave Erwin said. “We are proud to be in a position to help the National Kidney Foundation with their endeavors. We thought it fitting that this gesture comes from George and Ann Lopez, who serve the National Kidney Foundation, and served our tournament, with such a high regard for excellence.”
“I have enjoyed hosting the tournament for the past two years and I am grateful for the Classic’s donation to the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California,” George Lopez added. “Many lives will benefit as a result of their generosity.”

Well, 300 to be exact.

The National Kidney Foundation of Southern California, based in Encino, serves 10 counties from San Diego County to San Luis Obispo County and seeks to prevent kidney and urinary tract diseases, improve the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases, and increase the availability of all organs for transplantation. Most people at risk are unaware of the symptoms or causes of kidney disease.
“We’re so grateful for the donation, which will enable us to launch our first three KEEP screenings in the Coachella Valley,” said Linda Small, Executive Director of the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California. “There are two million people in Southern California with kidney disease and another two million people at risk. I know this is close to the heart of our spokespeople, George and Ann Lopez.”

In this week's Golf World (not posted), there's a strongly-worded piece by Jaime Diaz explaining that Lopez's departure had more to do with his edgy humor than Arnold Palmer. Diaz sums up the item by recalling the committee's various boondoggles and what the series of missteps means for the seemingly doomed event. 

"As for whether I'll play, it's going to depend on my schedule."

36695033-12193536.jpgIn Thomas Bonk's note on George Lopez getting bumped from the Hope Classic marquee in favor of Arnold Palmer, you have to love the humor-free and decidedly Tiger-like semantics from Lopez:
"My intentions have always been about what's best for the tournament. Arnold Palmer, he's an icon of golf; who doesn't respect him? I wish the tournament all the luck in the world.

"As for whether I'll play, it's going to depend on my schedule."

Ironic that the tournament is bringing in Palmer to liven things up, when it's all of the Palmer-designed courses that have killed the event.

A Visit To The Hope

ClassicClubClubhouseBefore visiting The Classic Club for today's third round of Bob Hope Classic play, I caught some of Thursday's telecast featuring a quintessential Hope moment.

Host George Lopez was playing at La Quinta Country Club and after a tee shot, entered someone's home where a large, festive gathering had assembled to watch the groups go through. Lopez sampled some dips, hugged a few of the guests, then uttered "thanks for not calling the police" and was on his way.

I note this because it was just the kind of simple fun that the Hope should be all about. 

Fast forward to today where I visited the Classic Club to talk to players after their six hour round. Well, only five stuck around to hit balls, a couple of others hit putts, and the rest were out of there as soon as possible. Thankfully Jeff Sluman and his insights made the trip worthwhile. But I digress.

The Classic Club holes I walked were not horrific, but the overshaping combines with the excessive scale to eliminate any of the intimacy that you find on the old desert courses. You won't see George Lopez going in someone's backyard or even into the gallery without having to work hard due to the climbs.

Since fans and volunteers have to work hard to get around the course and most are well outside of the coveted demo, the atmosphere is anything but festive. It's a shame because the tournament is well run and so many volunteers are devoted to the cause. But they can only give so much before the host course situation dampens their enthusiasm.

"PGA Tour officials, though, said Lopez didn't have the power to promote the Hope in such a manner, thereby killing the diary."

L.A. Times columnist T.J. Simers says he wanted to do one of his entertaining 24/7 column series where he follows a figure around and documents all. But he's claiming "PGA Tour officials" shot it down.  I'm not sure I'm buying it, but here's what he claims:

I HAD plans to attend the Bob Hope Classic this week in the desert -- thinking maybe somebody should go.

It's a dying PGA tournament, as you know, and aren't they all when Tiger isn't playing?

This one is so far gone it's not on network TV this weekend, has none of the top 20 players in the world, and will be competing for attention here with the NFL, Lakers and UCLA taking on USC.

But I still thought it'd be fun to shadow the Hope's celebrity host, George Lopez, like I did Oscar De La Hoya before his last two fights, and like the week-long trip to Nebraska -- write four or five Page 2 diary columns on the Hope.

Lopez, proving he's willing to do almost anything for the Hope, agreed to make himself available 24/7, including parties, dinners and an invite to caddy for him Saturday.

PGA Tour officials, though, said Lopez didn't have the power to promote the Hope in such a manner, thereby killing the diary. The concern, of course, what happens if one of the golfers is seen wearing a lampshade at one of the parties? How would it look on Page 2 if I couldn't put a name to a face of one of their players?

It was a legitimate concern since the tour is now loaded with players who lack identity -- the exception being JohnDaly, who wouldn't draw a second look if he was wearing a lampshade, because that's John Daly.

The PGA Tour's idea of hyping the dying Hope was to make three players available for interviews Tuesday, and if I told you three of the six names here belong to golfers -- Lane Frost, Charley Hoffman, Billy Bishop, John Ware, Anthony Kim and RichardJohnson -- could you pick them out?

Hoffman is Hope's defending champ, and was joined in the interview tent by Kim and Johnson. The other three names belong to men who really are dead.

"If the tour can change courses to get Tiger, they could do the same for Phil. It would save The Hope."

Tim Rosaforte says he'd rather hang in Abu Dabi than the desert this week, offering this Classic Club related quote from Joe Ogilvie:
"What's somewhat frustrating is that the player directors have almost zero power over venue," Ogilvie said. "No matter how much we say we feel like we're making a mistake going to these golf courses, it kind of falls on deaf ears."
More powerful though was Rosaforte pointing out the irony of this week's Westchester-to-Ridgewood-to-appease-Tiger-move, and the likely permanent loss of Mickelson from the Hope as long as they stay at the Classic Club:
If the tour can change courses to get Tiger, they could do the same for Phil. It would save The Hope.