By Ann Liguori
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LaQuinta, Calif – It’s already Friday here at the Bob Hope Golf Classic. The week is flying by as I am trying to stay in the zone and play my best golf in these intense tournament conditions. It is a thrill to play in this for the first time and I am having a blast!
The weather here in the desert has been perfect all week – bright sunshine every day with temperatures from the mid-seventies to mid-eighties. The climate, coupled with the scenic mountains and palm trees overlooking the manicured fairways, make this area a golf paradise during the winter months.
Yoga Berra and his wife Carmen were on my same airline connection flying out here. It was great to visit with Yogi – a national treasure and the official Ambassador for the Bob Hope Golf Classic. He is so beloved by so many people, including golf fans and of course Yankee fans who live out here.
Yogi attended an event on Monday at LaQuinta Village in which millions of dollars were dispersed to local charities. This tournament has raised over 50 million dollars in its 51-year history and I had the pleasure, along with actor Christopher Rich (Another World, Murphy Brown, Nash Bridges, Boston Legal) and Brett Baier, Fox News anchor, to hand out checks to the many charities who have benefited from the monies raised from this tournament.
The tournament started on Wednesday. My team includes actor Scott Wolf, known for his starring role in the TV Series, ‘Party of Five’ and the journalist he plays in the ABC series ‘V.’ Scott is a super nice guy and he has a very good golf swing. We both were guests on Matt MacKay’s ‘The Elevated Tee’ radio show on KPSI 920AM Sunday morning with Clarke Rheney, the celebrity chairperson of the Bob Hope Golf Classic.
The other amateur in my group is David Hansen of Mt Sinai, New York, of all places! David works for Computer Associates and has played in this event several times. Scott and I are rookies here and it has been a lot of fun experiencing this event for the first time as teammates. I am going to have to start watching ‘V!’
On Wednesday, we played Silver Rock and our pro was Brandt Jobe. Brandt is a super nice guy. He could not have been friendlier which helps us amateurs relax! He joked around a lot and was a pleasure to play with. He shot a 4-under- 68. He had seven birdies but bogied the par five, 7th hole and then got in trouble on the part five, 12th hole when his tee shot flew in the desert on the left. His second shot landed in the water that crossed the fairway. My caddie, Jared Carter, could have helped Jobe navigate the Silver Rock course, as Carter knows the tricky layout inside and out. Silver Rock is a gorgeous public golf course and many say, the most difficult course of the four that we play this week – Silver Rock, LaQuinta Country Club, Jack Nicklaus Private and Arnold Palmer Private at PGA West.
Jobe has quite a comeback story. In 2003, he suffered a freak accident in his garage at home when he sliced his left hand and severed three fingers with a shattered push broom. He showed me the scar running up his left arm from his fingers and wrist, after enduring six surgeries to repair it. It’s amazing that he is still playing golf. He admitted that he considered quitting but knew there was nothing else he enjoyed more than playing golf and the exhilaration and fan appreciation when he plays well. So he is back and looking for his first win on the PGA Tour. He shot a 69 on Thursday with another group of amateurs. But what a delight he was to play with. He shared some swing thoughts with all of us and had a great attitude.
I drove the ball like a maniac at Silver Rock – long and straight! The galleries were quite enthusiastic. It was a glorious day and at 9 under, the team got off to a good start.
Thursday, we played with Bubba Watson at LaQuinta Country Club. Of course, the galleries were large as everyone wanted to see Bubba smack his driver. It was quite windy and the course is narrow and tight so it took some time for the long, accurate bombs to surface. But once Bubba settled in, he ripped it, including a 398-yard drive on the par five, sixth hole. I am pleased to say that my drive on the 18th hole landed neck and neck with one that Bubba smacked so it was cool to be in Bubba territory, even though his tee box is way back. Bubba shot a 1- under- 71 with birdies on 4 and 6 and a bogie on 11. At 7-under, Bubba is six shots behind Jhonattan Vegas and Boo Weekly.
Some of the highlights from my round were draining a 45-foot putt for net birdie on the fourth hole, which broke about seven feet from right to left. My chip on the par three, 12th came close enough for a tap-in par, net birdie and I made a long par save on the sixth hole for a net birdie.
Almost every evening, there has been some kind of party. Monday’s Classic Celebration featured a performance from Trace Adkins. Wednesday evening, there was a celebrity dinner hosted by Goldie Hawn. She is delightful and as soon as the dinner ended, she flew out for an appearance on Oprah and then is headed to Switzerland to ski. Kirk Russell will join her after the tournament.
Some of the other celebrities I talked with include Marcus Allen, Julius Erving, Eric Dickerson, Grant Fuhr, George Gervin, Bo Jackson, Scott Hamilton, Sugar Ray Leonard, Evan Longoria, Greg Maddux, Willie Gault, Sterling Sharpe, actors Peter Gallagher, Rob Morrow, Joel Gretsch and John O’Hurley.
Friday, we play with Daniel Summerhays on the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West and then on Saturday, the amateurs finish on the Palmer Private with Harrison Frazar. The pros then wrap it up on Sunday on the Palmer private course.
I’ve always had the ultimate respect for professional golfers but this experience has given me even more insight into just how difficult it is for them to score consistently low, day in and day out, with conditions changing all the time and with schedules so varied. You have to know when to eat, work out, practice and get in family and personal time as well. Golf is the most difficult sport of all. There is so little margin for error. One has to be so precise. And just when you’ve struck one pure, the next could be completely mishit. The game requires a combination of skill, technique, finesse, course management, flexibility and mental strength, not to mention, hours and hours of practice and the ability to make adjustments and rebound from huge frustrations and disappointments. Plus, the game is full of personalities who have incredible stories of triumph and heartbreak. I feel honored, not only to be inside the ropes with these guys, but playing a long side them!