Francis Ouimet, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer and President Eisenhower all helped spread golf to the masses. However, I don’t think the game ever had a greater ambassador than Bob Hope. He played more than 2,000 different courses in virtually every country that offered golf, appeared in the 1951 British Amateur at Royal Porthcawl in Wales, and spent decades presiding over his namesake PGA Tour event. He was Mr. Golf.
They may call it the Humana Challenge now, but we’ll always have the memories, including these 18 gems from the man himself. Insert your own rim shots where appropriate.
1. “Arnold Palmer has been a frequent pro-am partner…He’s the biggest crowd pleaser since the invention of portable sanitary facilities…He’s won as much money as I’ve spent on lessons. He told me how I could cut eight strokes off my score…skip one of the par 3s.”
2. “It’s fun playing with (Jackie) Gleason. He has the only cart with a bartender. Have you ever seen Jackie riding around in his cart? It looks like a Goodyear blimp giving birth to a jeep. When he gets into a trap, the sand has to get out.”
3. “I’m an international player. I can say ‘shank’ in twenty-seven languages.”
4. “I’d played Shinnecock once, several years ago, and the rough did me in. When you hit into that stuff, you need a tetanus shot.”
5. “Jerry Ford’s fame as an erratic hitter, capable of beaning anyone within a range of 260 yards, is richly deserved. He’s rattled a number of shots off heads and backsides of the fearless followers in his gallery. The President doesn’t really have to keep score. He can just look back and count the walking wounded…Whenever I play with him, I usually try to make it a foursome—the President, myself, a paramedic and a faith healer. One of my most prized possessions is the Purple Heart I received for all the golf I’ve played with him…You don’t know what fear is until you hear Ford behind you shouting ‘Fore!’…and you’re still in the locker room.”
6. “That reminds me of Sammy Davis (Jr.). Sammy hits a nice ball, about 90 yards. But his jewelry flies 110.”
7. “One of nature’s true golf masterpieces is Pine Valley…It’s an awesome blend of turf, sand, scrubland, trees and water…Foursomes have left the first tee here and have never been seen again. They just find their shoelaces and bags.”
8. “Billy Graham, our (tournament’s) earthquake insurance, is another (great guy). It’s hard to beat a guy who gets out of a sand trap just by muttering a few words and looking up. Billy doesn’t call it a score…he calls it a ‘reckoning.’ I sank a 35-foot putt against him, turned around and my caddie had turned into a pillar of salt.”
9. “I once showed Pat Bradley my swing and said, ‘What do I do next?’ Pat replied, ‘Wait till the pain dies down.’”
10. “It’s fun playing with Dean Martin at Riviera in Los Angeles. When he wins anything we always tell him. Dean doesn’t drink liquor anymore. He drinks Windex. He gets an awful hangover but his eyes are so clear…I’ve seen Deano send a ball over 250 yards…just by breathing on it.”
11. “I never kick my ball in the rough or improve my lie in a sand trap. For that I have a caddie.”
12. “One of the most exciting performances I’ve ever seen on a TV screen had to be Johnny Miller’s 63 in the final round of the Open at Oakmont in 1973. That was absolutely unbelievable. Oakmont may be the second most difficult golf course in the country, just behind Pebble Beach, and for Johnny to shoot that kind of score under Open conditions just defies description. I know what a real accomplishment that was because I’ve played Oakmont. A photographer kept shooting me every time I swung. I was very flattered until I found out he was from Field and Stream.”
13. “For the average player, Pebble Beach could be murder. It was Alcatraz with grass…After playing Pebble Beach you needed antifreeze, not orange juice.”
14. “I do try to work out a little. I go swimming twice a day. It beats buying golf balls.”
15. “My only regret is that they don’t have an intensive care unit in the Eisenhower Medical Center for my golf game.”
16. “The caddies in Scotland are something else. If you hit a bad shot they sneer at you. They all sound like Rickles with a burr.”
17. “(Bing) was an excellent player, with the slowest backswing I’ve ever seen. While he was taking the club back you could fit him for a tailored suit.”
18. “I joined Cypress (Point) a long time ago and haven’t played nearly as many rounds there as I would have wished. It’s such a beautiful place…It’s also very exclusive. Cypress had a very successful membership drive last month. They drove out forty members.”
Quotes from Hope's book, "Bob Hope's Confessions of a Hooker: My Lifelong Love Affair with Golf."
(Photo: Tony Triolo/SI)