The late Bob Hope – Toluca Lake resident and best friend to the American soldier – and businesses have raised more than $52 million for the Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Desert and more than 70 other Coachella Valley charities thanks to a charity golf event started 54 years ago. Hosted by Hope for most of those years, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic – now the Humana Challenge – has also enjoyed the support and participation of Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Residents of the L.A. area – including myself – would love to see President Barack Obama add his name to that distinguished list. From my perspective, there is no better time for the president to participate than in January 2016, during the last full year of his presidency.
In 1961, publicity was sought for the very first time for this special event and shortly thereafter, presidents, vice presidents, Hollywood stars, chief executives and senior executives, the world’s best golfers, celebrity amateurs and professional athletes from practically every sport – as well as ordinary folks like you and me – have flocked to the low desert to play or watch golf, volunteer and be part of something bigger than themselves. As a bonus, attendees get to see the big horn sheep come down the rugged Santa Rosa Mountains to graze on the fairways and on the fringe of the putting greens. These beautiful animals are by themselves more than worth the price of admission.
A veritable who’s who of Hollywood and Southern California luminaries have made the annual trip from the City of Angels to participate and show their support for this great cause: Craig T. Nelson, Michael Bolton, Bill Morrow, Lucas Black, Alice Cooper, Frank Sinatra, Desi Arnaz, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., James Garner, Clint Eastwood and countless others. Los Angeles Dodgers standouts including Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Maury Wills have played there, too. Arnold Palmer, Johnny Miller, Fred Couples, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and many other top pro golfers have won in years past, with “Arnie” being the only five-time winner.
My father took me to what was then the Bob Hope Desert Classic for the first time in 1970, and my wife and I have served as volunteer marshals on the 16th green at the Palmer course at PGA West for many years. Since Humana, a large health insurance organization, first teamed with the Clinton Foundation in 2011, the tournament’s roster of businesses and top pro golfers has grown even larger. This year, for example, we had multiple opportunities to watch 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions victor Zach Johnson, 2012 FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker and winner of the 93rd PGA Championship Keegan Bradley as well as crowd-pleasers such as Davis Love III, Charlie Wi and David Toms. Also there were such rising stars as Ryo Ishikawa, Ricky Fowler and many more of the top 30 on this PGA Tour stop.
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