Call it what you will but it will forever be known to us as the Bob Hope Desert Classic — or just The Classic, if you will. Over 60 years, the players have changed but the name remains the same . . and it seems as if they’ve returned to the original, as it should be. No longer the Humana Whosiewhatsit or the Chryslers Whatsitcalled, this year for the 60th, it’s just the Desert Classic.
We’ll let golf writer Larry Bohannan’s column from the Nov. 1 Desert Sun explain it:
“The desert’s PGA Tour event is bringing back a familiar name and an all-too-familiar situation: looking for a new title sponsor.
“The 60-year-old tournament, to be played Jan. 17-20, will be renamed the Desert Classic, a throwback to when the event was called the Bob Hope Desert Classic from the 1960s to the 1980s.”
Jeff Sanders, executive director of the event for tournament operator Lagardere Sports, told The Desert Sun: “As for the Desert Classic name, the tournament was known as either the Bob Hope Desert Classic or the Bob Hope Classic from 1965 through 1985, with Chrysler’s name added to the title in 1986. The Challenge part of the title was added when Humana took over the title sponsorship role in 2012.”
“That’s where the brand equity is. It’s where the legacy is,” Sanders said. “That’s where everything is. This is the Desert Classic. It’s sunny skies with palm trees around beautiful golf courses surrounded by mountains. This is the Desert Classic.”
Previously committed to the field is two-time winner and World Golf Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, who serves as the tournament’s ambassador. Other past winners committed to the field include Pat Perez, Bill Haas, Jason Dufner, Jhonattan Vegas and Hudson Swafford. Past major championship winners Graeme McDowell and Charl Schwartzel and 2017 Presidents Cup member Kevin Kisner, world No. 18 Patrick Cantlay and former U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson also are expected to compete.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1974, SPORTS
Copyright 1974/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY
There’s Still Hope
The badge of success in show business used to be a telephone in your car, a radio on your yacht, a butler, a ringside table at the Mocambo, seven or eight divorces and a string of race horses or polo ponies.
Nowadays, you’re nobody without your own golf tournament — and your own disease. We expect any day now to read about the “Tammy Wynette Classic formerly known as the Masters.” Or, “The Broderick Crawford U.S. Open, all proceeds to go to a bird hospital, or the fund for Rocky Mountain spotted fever.”
The Hartford Open got along for 20 years before it became the Sammy Davis, Jr. Greater Hartford Open. The Danny Thomas Memphis Open benefits the hospital of St. Jude’s. This week, we will have the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open. Two weeks ago, we had the Andy Williams San Diego Open. So far, we haven’t had the “Engelbert Humperdinck British Open.” But, Jackie Gleason has his own tournament. So does Dean Martin.
Bing Crosby started it all. Bing’s tournament was originally a frivolous outing for his pals on the golf tour and his pals in the movie industry. Someone brought a case of whisky, someone else brought the clams. It got out of hand only when television came along.
It was Bob Hope who first demonstrated that marquee power moved a tournament into the mink and Cadillac class. The Palm Springs Open was a nice little tour event where everybody shot 61s and the sponsors lost money and 150 or so people showed up to buy $5 season tickets and drop ice cream cones in the sand traps until the community came to Hope with its hat in hand a dozen years ago.
The people wanted two things: a TV sponsor and money for a hospital.
Hope is a unique guy. He probably knows more millionaires by their first names than the Secretary of the Treasury, but he manages to go through life like a drugstore cowboy with nothing more on his mind than chewing gum and cracking wise. Bob is a confidant of generals, prime ministers and presidents, but he manages to convey the impression he just put down the pool cue, or just got caught tip-toeing out of the wrong stateroom on a cruise.
Under him, the Bob Hope Desert Classic became a gaudy, money-making carnival. Every boardroom in the country is empty for the weekend of the Hope Classic.
Bob Hope, of course, is the Armed Forces’ real commander-in-chief. He is General Laughter. In Korea, he got to Inchon before the Marines. “You must come to all my invasions,” he told the troops, wading ashore grandly. “I tried out four jokes on the Koreans; no wonder they’re ready to give up.”
I rode around the course with Bob where he was playing with cronies Bob Bixler, Jim Chambers and Pollard Simons. “I hope I’m not butting in on a big betting game.” “Not at all,” Bob assured me airily. “This is just a friendly game. We’re just playing for Texas.”
“How long have you been playing?” I asked. “Would you believe when this round started, we had wooden shafts?” demanded Bob. “What time did we tee up?” he asked. “Eleven o’clock,” someone told him. “Yeah, but what day?” cracked Hope. He turned to a companion. “Would you believe Polly once spent a week in a sand trap? At that, he said it was better than being in Cleveland.”
A companion flew a shot over everything and it headed vaguely for the horizon. “Don’t worry,” soothed Bob. “They’ll stop it at the border.”
Hope has been playing golf since 1928. He has been playing to audiences since birth. To be laughed at, a comedian must first be loved. Hope’s great talent is that he can bring a smile to the hopeless. Only once in nearly a half century of entertaining did an audience stone him. A few home front jackals hissed at a ball game — because he visited hospitals full of shot kids. For Hope, it was a little like being bitten by your own dog, or being sued by a guy you saved from drowning because you lost his hat.
Now 70, Hope is still a tireless monologist — at an age when most people would just be tiresome monologists. He still gives you 18 holes of golf and 180 one-liners en route. He does the equivalent of a $250,000 show for free at his tournament.
He once seethed when a magazine said he was one of the nation’s 25 largest corporations. Because money isn’t that important to Hope. Audiences are. His wealth is a billion laughs. Locked up in fool-proof vaults — the hearts of his countrymen. His monument is not a golf tournament, it’s a smile.
Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times
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