Bob Hope and Golf – Thanks for the Memories
I don’t mind saying that the British Open, won by lefty Phil Mickelson (the first lefty to do it in over half a century) has left me more exhausted as a viewer than any golf major in my memory. It was a gritty course and a suspenseful ending, with both familiar and unknown names floating constantly up and down on the upper echelons of the leaderboard. This Open is a great memory.
Speaking of memories, I wonder how many people know that Bob Hope, one of the most American Americans in modern history, was British – well, at least he was born there. Coming into cultural popularity during the eras of other host celebrities using the golf stroke as a television introduction, such as Perry Como and Johnny Carson, Hope has been called Mr. Golf, and treated the game the same way he treated the tremendous entertainment effort during the Second World War through Vietnam and beyond. Regardless of the quality of his game, he has received the Gold Tee Award, the Old Tom Morris Award and a medal from the PGA in tribute to his contributions.
Hope wasn’t just a golf addict. He loved sports in general, and a lot of them, owning baseball and football franchises in part. Still, the Scottish game was his favorite hands-on sport, and if he’d played at a professional level, he might never had told a joke away from the course. As it is, he was fond of saying that “golf is my profession. I tell jokes to pay for my green fees.”
In terms of golf travel, he was as high a mile member as many of the greats. Add that to his entertainment tours, and it’s hard to believe he was ever off of a train or plane. In his constant motion, decade after decade, he eventually played over two thousand courses, many times for humanitarian purposes. His sense of charity pervaded all of those efforts, and he was never one to sit back and let an unacceptable situation persist.
Hope’s charismatic career, in terms of golf, went on for over half a century, and we who kept up with his career marveled at how young he remained, until very near the end of his life. Perhaps his game wasn’t what he wished, but even that was good fodder for material. Asking Arnold Palmer what he thought of his game, Palmer replied, “Wonderful, Bob, but I still prefer golf.” That and much more can undoubtedly be found in his book, “Confessions of a Hooker.” Still, Hope did accomplish seven holes-in-one. That’s seven more than I’ve had.
The hallmarks of Bob Hope’s life and interests remain in clear view on the PGA today, with the Bob Hope/Chrysler Classic Golf Tournament played annually in Palm Springs. From his public associations with Bing Crosby, another passionate devotee of the game, to events with present and former presidents, world leaders, celebrities of every stripe, and the greatest golfers the world has ever known, Hope put himself in the center of things, where he could do the most good – and he made the most of it.
How the consummate entertainer would have loved this Open. There are a lot of great personalities to enjoy in the entertainment world today, but things are a little different, and none are so closely tied to the game of golf as this self-deprecating genius of the latter 20th century. So, I will include his name with Phil, Beatriz and the rest who were victorious last week by saying, “thanks for the memories.”