Truth & Rumors: Out of prison, Thorpe returns to Champions Tour

After serving 10 months in prison for tax evasion, 62-year-old Jim Thorpe returned to the Champions Tour this week at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am in Tampa, Fla. He received a warm reception, according to The St. Petersburg Times:

"Tuesday morning when I drove in (to TPC Tampa Bay) I've never been that nervous at a golf course in my whole life," Thorpe said. "I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how the pros were going to receive me, and it turns out that I got a lot of hugs, a lot of 'good to have you back,' a lot of 'we missed you.' "

The closest Thorpe got to golf during his stay in the minimum security prison was watching it on TV. He didn't allow his wife and children to visit because he didn't want them to see him in that environment.

"They understood it," he said. "I just told them to let me do what I need to do and it will all be gone in 10 months. "I did what I had to do up there. You don't want to be there, but I realized what I had to do so I just made it work. I've had guys say to me that they could've never done that. Well, you'd be surprised what you can do if you have to."

Hope Classic modifies long-time format The Bob Hope Classic’s quirky format — five days, four courses, pros teaming with a different three-player amateur team each day — is no longer. When the tourney returns in 2012, with new sponsor Humana, the format will be reduced to four days, three courses, and 144 pros paired with the same number of amateurs, reports

The amateurs will rotate to two different pros each of the first three days, with no amateur play in Sunday’s final round. That means the amateurs will play with six pros over three days, rather than four pros over four days in the old format.

Tournament chairman Larry Thiel said he is convinced a new format will help the Hope fight one of the main criticisms aimed at the event in recent years, the weakness of its professional field. The last three Hope winners, Jhonattan Vegas, Bill Haas and Pat Perez, all recorded their first tour victories at the Hope.

“I think the players generally across the board will embrace these modifications we are talking about,” Thiel said.

Tour pro Scott McCarron isn’t so sure.

“…Some guys who played the Hope kind of like the fact that you had four days to play (before a cut) and get your game in shape early in the year.”

Arctic golf season kicks off  Finally, if you haven’t yet kicked the winter cobwebs off your golf clubs, what are you waiting for? Heck, they’re already playing at Palmer Municipal Golf Course in … Alaska:

The Palmer Municipal Golf Course is always the first 18-hole golf course to open in the Anchorage area. But golf director George Collum III told The Anchorage Daily News that it is rare for it to open this early. He says golfers can thank recent windstorms for that.

Close to 200 golfers showed up Wednesday when told the course was open for the season. Collum says it was 31 degrees when the first group teed off at 10 a.m. Some were dressed for the cold, but he says at least one golfer wore shorts.

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by Kevin Cunningham