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Hooks and Cuts: Stars and Athletes

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  • Bob Hope ClassicLA QUINTA, Calif. – As Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey was gushing about Jhonattan Vegas, “he bombs it, hits it by me 40 yards,” Vegas’ caddie Luis Sira leans into the conversation and, with his Latin accent, says with a huge smile, “We got a new name in golf boys and it’s Jhonny Vegas!”
  • Here are some other 'Hooks and Cuts' from the California desert at the Bob Hope Classic:
  • – Gary Woodland really moves it as well, with a ball speed of better than 200 miles per hour. Woodland played college hoops at Washburn in Kansas, now refining his obvious athletic gifts with instructor Randy Smith. He has Jack Nicklaus thighs and, by the way, Jack averaged 18 per game in Ohio high school basketball.
  • – Mr. 59, Al Geiberger, is teaching in the California desert with his sons and he stopped by our Golf Channel booth for a visit. When he broke the barrier in 1977 at Colonial CC in Tennessee, the next best score that day was 65. Paul Goydos, whose 59 at the John Deere Classic was nearly matched that day by Steve Stricker’s 60, says without hesitation, “There may be five of us in the 59 club, but Al’s the President.”
  • – Tim Petrovic, looking every bit like a seasoned rocker with his hair grown long, jumped on stage Friday at the Hope Jam Session to sing with The Doors’ legendary Robby Krieger. Petrovic came off flushed, in a zone, as if he’d just fired a 59. “That was incredible,” he said. “I met him six years ago at Riviera, where he’s a member. I’ve always been a huge fan.”
  • – Thoughtful and articulate, Vegas talks openly about the decline of golf in his native Venezuela under leftist president, Hugo Chavez. “It’s sad,” he said. “Everything he does is for political purposes.” Chavez branded golf a bourgeois sport, seizing courses to build housing for the poor. There are just 17 courses remaining. “Ten years ago there were like 3,000 juniors playing in Venezuela,” Vegas said. “Now probably 90 percent have given it up.”
  • – As if anyone needs a reminder that golf’s a humbling game, Geiberger offers this: “Fourteen days after I shot 59, I shot 80 at Butler National. So within a two week span I shot in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.”
  • – Sprinter and former Chicago Bears wide receiver Willie Gault is 50 but looks 35 and runs like he is 25. Gault owns the over-40 world record in the 100-yard dash and, at age 48, ran a 10.80, just seven-tenths of a second off his personal best 30 years ago. That’s a mind blower.
  • – David Duval now believes the magic number is not 59 or 58 but 14 under. “No one’s ever done it,” he said.
  • – George Gervin, a.k.a. the Ice Man, chipped in Friday while playing alongside his old ABA Virginia Squires teammate, Dr. J, Julius Erving. The Ice Man scored 63 on the final day of the ’78 NBA regular season to win the scoring title by a thread over David Thompson, who’d gone off for 73 that day. And Gervin even sat out the fourth quarter. That’s a mind blower as well.
  • – Tony Dovolani from “Dancing With the Stars” is playing in his first Bob Hope. From the guys he hears, “My wife loves you.” From the ladies, it’s, “I just want to do one dance step with you.” Tony, who is already an 8 handicap despite playing only three years, thinks about dance principles of rhythm and timing when he “swings,” and said long-legged beauty Stacy Keibler was his favorite partner.
  • – One of our all time favorites, Jim Thorpe, walks out of an Alabama prison this Wednesday at 4 a.m. His old friend and caddie, Jelly Hansberry, spoke to Jim’s wife Carol, who reports that his “spirits are very high.” Let’s hope Jim, at 61, can turn back the clock like Willie Gault.
  • – Matt Kuchar’s caddie Lance Bennett on his boss, echoing what we’ve all been witnessing: “He’s as consistent and solid as it gets.”
  • – Former Hope winner Donnie Hammond and Kuchar ran into each other on the practice tee. “I miss our little matches,” said Kuchar, referring to their battles when Kuchar lived and played out of Heathrow in Orlando. “Yeah I remember (Chris) DiMarco, every time he needed a 30-footer he’d drop it like it was a tap-in,” said Hammond of longtime Heathrow member DiMarco. “Hey Kuch, I don’t know how you ever made it listening to Fulty and me,” cracked Hammond. “Fulty” is former PGA Tour player, Fulton Allem, and Hammond said he’s struggling with his health. DiMarco’s struggling with his game. Their other running mate was Thorpe. Hammond, unable to gain status on the Champions Tour, is considering the head pro job at Heathrow. “I gotta do something,” he said.
  • – Colleague and former Pebble Beach winner Matt Gogel reports this from a tour rep: 20 years ago the average shoe size on the PGA Tour was nine-and-a-half and now it’s 11-and-a-half. Athletes like Dustin Johnson, Vegas and Woodland have arrived.