By Ann Liguori
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Attention passionate golfers and corporate America. There is no better corporate hospitality and sponsorship experience than the Bob Hope Classic.
A week’s worth of playing four of the top golf courses in the Coachella Valley with the top PGA Tour professionals in the world and enjoying all the après golf festivities, are enough reasons to sign up. Add in the opportunity to host your clients in a gorgeous part of the country where the weather was absolutely perfect – bright sun, clear skies and temperatures from the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties every day and all the glitz and glamour that comes with playing with friendly celebrities and PGA Tour pros and you have yourself quite an exceptional experience!
Three amateur golfers (including a celebrity) are paired with a different PGA Tour professional each day, Wednesday through Saturday. The format is best ball of the team with handicaps. Each amateur player has to be at least an 18 handicap to play in the event. The pros conclude their tournament on Sunday, the only PGA Tour event in which the PGA Tour pros play five straight days. Amateurs can get in three practice rounds prior to the start of the tournament on any of the four courses played during the tournament. Players use a caddie for each day of the tournament. You can either come with your own or hire a local caddie.
The golf courses are spectacular – PGA West’s Arnold Palmer Private Course, Jack Nicklaus Private, LaQuinta Country Club and Silver Rock, with accommodations at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells. Each venue offers plenty of food and excellent service including passes to the Bob Hope Club, a hospitality tent with tables and chairs and lots of food and drink, overlooking the breathtakingly beautiful finishing hole at the Arnold Palmer Private Course. It’s a perfect place to wine and dine and watch the final round on Sunday. And football lovers could watch both the golf action as the pros played the 18th and the NFC and the AFC Championship games, which were playing on monitors scattered throughout the tent.
Throughout the week, sponsors and celebrities are invited to a variety of parties including a dinner hosted by Goldie Hawn and the Jam Session which featured musical performances from a variety of the celebrities who played in the tournament. All the parties were festive and the Jam Session ROCKED!
Don Felder, a former member and guitar player of the Eagles, who wrote the title track for the group’s ground-breaking album, Hotel California, brought the golfers and their guests to a frenzy when he played the hit song.
Robby Krieger from the DOORS played several of his legendary hits while PGA Tour pro Tim Pterovic rocked with them on stage. Tommy Thayer of KISS joined in on the guitar. Danny Seraphine of Chicago performed. Alice Cooper sang his big hits, ‘School’s Out’ and ‘I’m Eighteen’ and sang several DOORS and KISS tunes. Pat Green and Steve Azar added a bit of country music to the mix. Steve Cropper jammed out on the guitar and sang one of his hits, ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.” The multi-talented actor John O’Hurley hosted the evening. One of my golf partners, actor Scott Wolf from ‘Party of Five’ and ‘V’ belted out an impressive rendition of ‘New York, New York.’ And Fox News Anchor Bret Baier surprised the crowd with his own flawless version of ‘Rappers Delight.’
“We know how to entertain!” says BHGC Board Member Clark Rheney. “The one thing that the Bob Hope Classic does better than any other Tour event is entertain – from the amateurs, to the celebrities, to the Tour Pros – we know how to throw a party.”
The professionals I played with were Brandt Jobe, Bubba Watson, Daniel Summerhays and Harrison Frazer. The ‘These Guys are Good’ PGA Tour slogan hardly does them justice. When you play the course with them and experience the same conditions and pressures, you are even more impressed with their shot making abilities, length and course management. And each player was as friendly as could be, talkative and extremely accommodating with the amateurs.
And as if there was not enough excitement all week, the final round on Sunday required a play-off between PGA Tour rookie Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela and Americans Gary Woodland and defending champion Bill Haas. Haas was eliminated after the first playoff hole on the 18th. And then despite hitting his tee shot in the water on the 10th on the second playoff hole, Vegas was able to save par by making a 13-footer, which was good enough to beat Woodland, who hit a poor bunker shot. It was Vegas’ first PGA Tour victory in only his second event as a Tour member.
For me, the four day golfing experience was a highlight, playing under the same challenging course conditions as the professionals. I wrote about some of my own personal golf highlights in last week’s column but I don’t mind reiterating the exhilaration I felt standing next to big hitter Bubba Watson on the eighteenth fairway of Laquinta Country Club, after both of us clocked our drives from our perspective tees. I drained several long putts for net birdie throughout the week but the ultimate was finishing the four day tournament by making a long dramatic putt for net birdie on my last hole, the ninth, on the Arnold Palmer Private Course at PGA West. My caddie Jared Carter, pro Harrison Frazer, teammates Scott Wolf and Dave Hansen were as excited for me as I was!
It was a storybook ending to the perfect week.
Be sure to visit Ann’s web site at www.annliguori.com and order copies of her book and DVD’s of interviews with top names in sports and entertainment.