Trip Dispatch: Warburton Celebrity Golf for Kids golf tourney rocks Palm Springs

By Mike BaileyMarch 4, 2014, 8:26 pm

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- As far as celebrity-am golf tournaments go, the Patrick Warburton "Golf for Kids" event conducted this past weekend at the JW Marriott Desert Springs and Classic Club rates pretty high. It might not have the "A" list of Academy Award-winning celebrities like the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the PGA Tour, but it does a nice job of filling the celebrity void left by the old Bob Hope Classic (now the Humana Challenge), which no longer fields TV and movie stars.

Best of all, only in its fourth year, Warburton's weekend raised close to $900,000 for St. Jude Children's Hospital, a place in Memphis, Tenn., where no child with cancer is turned away and no family ever pays. Warburton's passion for the cause belies the monotone characters he played on TV such as David Puddy on "Seinfeld" and the macho Jeff Bingham on "Rules of Engagement," although he deflected praise to his tournament chairman Clarke Rheney, who Warburton says spends more than 1,000 hours working on this event.

Warburton and his wife Cathy got sucked into the cause a few years ago after Warburton played in Jim McMahon's Super Bowl tourney in Miami. McMahon's event benefits St. Jude, too, and Warburton decided to visit the hospital afterwards to read to the children, showcasing his natural talent, considering how many voices he does for animation projects. He soon decided to host an event himself.

"It's not a sad place. It's set up so the kids have fun there," said Warburton, who plays golf to a 16 handicap. "It's the best place in the world if you're a sick child and for those parents who have nowhere else to go. St. Jude is a place with answers."

I was fortunate enough this past weekend to play in Warburton's event and attend the festivities surrounding it. Hosted by the fabulous JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa, more than a couple hundred golfers and nongolfers joined about 50 celebrities in what was deemed a "party for a cause." It started with a songwriters session on Thursday night, a jam session on Friday night, followed by a  more formal gala and auction Saturday night.

Friday's jam, by the way, absolutely rocked. Backed up by a terrific collection of musicians known as Sixwire, the evening went past midnight, featuring talent from some of rock 'n' roll's best bands. Musicians included such greats as Mike Mills from R.E.M., Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and John Elefante of Kansas. I was even impressed with CNN anchor Robin Meade, who rocked out a duet with Mickey Thomas, formerly of Jefferson Starship.


Mike Mills of R.E.M. jams at the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs. 

On Saturday night, though, there was hardly a dry eye in house after Rick Shadyak and Craig Dismuke addressed the crowd during the gala. Shadyak, CEO for St. Jude, spoke eloquently of the mission of the great hospital, which has taken the cancer survival rate of its young patients from less than 20 percent 50 years ago when late actor Danny Thomas founded it to close to 90 percent now.

"We won't stop until no child dies of cancer," he said.

Dismuke shared the story of his 5-year-old son Ingram's battle with a rare brain cancer, Anaplastic Ependymoma. His moving recount of what his family and son, nicknamed "Ingram the Conqueror," have been through over the past two years reminded everyone of what this was about.

But as Warburton said, "While we're here, everybody celebrates life and nobody needs to apologize for that. It's a party but everyone is really cognizant of why we're really here."

Golf at the JW Marriott Desert Springs and Classic Club

Golf was Saturday and Sunday respectively on the recently renovated JW Marriott's Palms Course and the Classic Club (in the Bob Hope rotation from 2006-'08) down the street. Both courses were in terrific shape, our weather held out (there was a severe threat of rain on Saturday) and some of these celebrities, not to mention guests, had game.

My group got to play with Eric Dickerson, who has a daughter with health challenges. Eric and his wife Penny know what it's like to spend sleepless nights at the hospital worrying about a sick child. At the same time, though, Dickerson, who plays to a 7, showed the same athletic drive he had as a player in the NFL when he set (and still holds) the NFL single season rushing record at 2,105 yards in 1984 as a Los Angeles Ram. Dickerson, who hits a power fade about 320 yards off tee, fired a 76 when we all had to play our own ball on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer-designed Classic Club (I lost a side wager to him, by the way).

The best player of the celebrity lot, however, was Oliver Hudson, one of Warburton's co-stars on "Rules" and a regular on the series "Nashville." The handsome lefthander, who is the son of Goldie Hawn and sister of Kate Hudson, has been as a good as a plus-2. Warburton says playing with Hudson is like competing with a tour player. Apparently, he can't get enough strokes.

One of the most entertaining highlights on Sunday, however, came when long drive champion and trick shot artist Dan Boever employed comedian Gary Valentine of "King of Queens" in his act before the second round. Boever dressed Valentine (who is the older brother of Queens star Kevin James) up in protective gear, including a baseball player's cup, as he fired skulled wedge shots (with soft nerf-like balls, fortunately) into Valentine's mid-section:


In the end, the most important part, though, was the check, which was presented for $881,000 to St. Jude. It  brings the four-year total to well over $2.5 million. The 2014 money doesn't even cover a day's operating expenses of $1.9 million, but it's a pretty good start, Warburton said.

"There are times where you feel that we're not able to get as much done as you want," he said, "but it's all good because what you do with an event like this is also create more awareness."


Getty Images

Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

Getty Images

Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

Getty Images

DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

Getty Images

LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.