Hope died Sunday at 100 years of age. Golf lost one of its greatest ambassadors. As the late Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist Jim Murray once wrote, 'The really great sports passion of Bob Hope's life is golf. I don't suppose anybody has ever done more for the game, not Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen, not anybody except possibly the Scotsman who invented it in the first place.'
Hope came on stage carrying a golf club during his routine, and the sport was never far away if he could get in a quick nine. He played with virtually everybody ' Presidents, kings, celebrities and common people.
If you watch a game, it's fun. If you play at it, it's recreation. If you work at it, it's golf. Hope said it, and rarely has one man taken it to heart so literally.
Hope had homes in Toluca Lake, Calif., near Los Angeles, and Palm Springs.
At the Toluca Lake home he lived adjoining Lakeside Country Club, where he could easily get out and practice chip shots ' which he did until just a few years ago. At Palm Springs, he lent his name ' and much of his energy ' to the Bob Hope Desert Classic, a staple on the PGA Tour since the 1960s.
He started playing to escape the boredom of a constant life of the road. 'During the spring of 1930 on the Orpheum Circuit I'd be waiting around the hotel lobby in the late morning when the Diamond Brothers, another act, would come down with their golf clubs, Hope said. They played every day. One day I said. Well, hell, I'll go out there with you. I've been playing the game ever since.
His first date with Dolores Reade, whom he married in 1934, was centered around golf. They had dinner at an Italian restaurant in New York City, then ruined a tablecloth drawing golf holes.
'We played all the time, together when he'd let me,' Dolores said in a GolfWorld magazine interview. 'And we've been playing since. I only beat him one time - in Vienna, Austria, where he shot 76 and I shot 75. I never let him forget it.
People ask Bob how we've stayed happily married for almost 70 years, and he says because he's only been home for three weeks. He says he had to work that hard to pay for his golf.'
Of course, his greatest contribution to the sports is probably the Classic. It was in 1965 that the Palm Springs Golf Classic became the Bob Hope Desert Classic. Hope had one demand ' that he didnt have to attend committee meetings.
Hope performed at the Classic Ball at the tournament for years ' for free, of course. And yet, he created the Eisenhower Medical Center, the Betty Ford Clinic and the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center. Hope and Dolores donated the 80 acres of land that the centers stand on. And the Classic has raised more than $38 million for Palm Springs area causes.
Hope, though, is renowned for his charitable work. His work with the television network NBC is almost as well-identified as his work was with the Classic. His daughter, Linda, explained that the Toluca Lake home and Hopes love for golf played a big part in his decision.
'The house was so close to the studio,' she says. 'ABC and CBS were much farther away. And he was able to be close to the golf course at Lakeside Country Club, where he could hit a few balls between (studio) setups.
A few of Bob Hopes golf jokes:
'Players occasionally have to contend with these gusty desert winds. I hit a ball into the wind one day... but I shouldn't have watched it with my mouth open. I'm the only guy around here with an Adam's Apple marked Spalding Kro-Flite.'
'I set out to play golf with the intention of shooting my age, but I shot my weight instead!'
'I asked my good friend, Arnold Palmer how I could improve my game, he advised me to cheat!'
'I've played some strange rounds of golf in my travels. One course in Alaska was hacked out of the wilderness. My caddy was a moose. Every time I reached for a club he thought I was trying to steal his antlers.'
'The Scottish caddies are great. One old fellow at St. Andrews told me, 'I had a golfer who was so lousy he threw his clubs into the water. Then he dived in himself. I thought he was going to drown, but I remembered he couldn't keep his head down long enough.'
'You all know Jerry Ford -- the most dangerous driver since Ben Hur. Ford is easy to spot on the course. He drives the cart with the red cross painted on top. Whenever I play with him, I usually try to make it a foursome -- the President, myself, a paramedic and a faith healer. One of my most prized possession is the Purple Heart I received for all the golf I've played with him.
'Whenever I play with Ford these days I carry 13 clubs and a white flag. I try to win only enough from him to pay my extra insurance premiums.'
About former vice-president Spiro Agnew, Hope said, 'I was his partner one day at Palm Springs, although I didn't realize it until my caddy handed me a blindfold and a cigarette.'