Bob Hope Chrysler Classic 2006

marshal's hat

Marshal Paul reporting for duty

Last week was the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic golf tournament, and I once again volunteered to serve as a marshal.

Classic Club course map
Map of the Classic Club (Click image to enlarge)

This year the tournament moved to a new home course, the Classic Club. It's a brand new course — the tournament was the first time the course has been played on, except for one round by Arnold Palmer who designed the course. The club house isn't finished; the parking lots are still dirt; but the course itself was in great shape. A foundation built the course and then donated it to the tournament. We should all be so lucky to get gifts like that!

My job for all five days was 'greens captain' on the 14th hole. Lest anyone think that was a big deal, I hasten to point out that it was so important nobody bothered to tell me I had been 'promoted' until the second day, and only then because there was a mixup as to whether or not I was to be given a radio. Can you say "disorganized"?

Actually, it was quite interesting, because over the course of five days I got to see every golfer play that hole at least once and, on the last day, for a second time. Apart from the actual mechanics of knocking the ball into the hole with a putter, the "short game," as they call it, is a study in ritual.

Once the ball has landed on the green, certain actions must be taken:

• Mark the position of the ball with a marker, allowing one to pick up the ball from its resting place and then—

• Toss the ball to the caddy, who must catch it in mid-air one-handed. It is apparently strictly forbidden to use two hands to catch a golf ball.

• The caddy must wipe the ball clean with a towel.

• When it is the player's turn to putt, the caddy must hand the ball to the player who repositions the ball next to the marker.

• The player then positions himself beyond the ball in alignment with the ball and the hole. At this point, it is customary to hold the putter vertically like a plumb line, seeking a congruence between the shaft of the putter and the line between the ball and the hole.

• The player must then stride around the other side of the green, repeating the process of aligning now the hole and the ball.

• While all this is going on, the other three or four players (on the last day the pros play in threesomes) must stand quietly aside holding earnest conferences with their caddies.

• Having seen the hole and ball from both sides now, the player must return to the ball, pick it up and rotate it imperceptibly about its center, and replace it next to the marker. Then, and only then, may the player remove the marker from the green.

• At this point the player addresses the ball. That is, the player takes a position near enough to the ball to rehearse the next stroke, but not so close as to make actual contact with the ball. Any and all other persons are, at this point, expected to remain silently frozen in place, lest the player be distracted in any way. Even casual observers of sports will recognize immediately the contrast with team sports, such as football, where an entire team of players must coordinate their actions amid a veritable cacophony of whooping and hollering by fans. The professional golf player, on the other hand, must be undisturbed in his solitary endeavor.

• When a sufficient hush has settled over the crowd and the player has sunk deeply enough into his "zone" the player moves his feet ever so slightly closer to the ball, without in any other way altering his stance, so that the previously rehearsed stroke can be repeated, this time making contact with the ball.

• In an ideal world, the ball will roll toward the hole and fall into it with a satisfying "plop." But the world of golf is seldom ideal, and in practice, the ball is often errant, following a course slightly to one side or the other of the hole. If this happens, the entire ritual may be repeated.

I estimate that the time needed to complete an 18-hole round of golf could be reduced by at least one hour, simply by eliminating most of the folderol on the green. Just walk up and whack it!

The Celebrity field played at the Classic Club on Saturday (they rotate among the four courses, one day at each). This is the day when hundreds and hundreds of people show up to catch a glimpse of their heroes. Many of these spectators know nothing about golf and its protocol — they're just looking to take a picture (forbidden), talk to (forbidden), or get an autograph from (forbidden) their idols. The very first year I volunteered at the Hope, I was assigned to the driving range on Celebrity Day. It took about ten minutes to confirm that the generation gap is real, and I am on the wrong side of it! "Justin Timber-who?" This year Justin Timber-who was back again, but the real spectacle was provided by Michael Bolton who was accompanied on the course by a Desperate Housewife (no, I don't know which one, I've never seen the show). Judging from their ambulatory foreplay, I would say this was not the first time they had met.

This was the second year of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic without Bob himself, at least in body. But his nose was there. Bob's nose was everywhere!

hat, front
On the front of our hats
hat, back
On the back of our hats
water bottle caddy
On the water bottle caddy

Yea, on the water bottles!

And Dolores was there. I know this because I had a radio:

"Mrs. Hope has arrived at the clubhouse."

"Mrs. Hope and her entourage have entered the elevator."

"Mrs. Hope has arrived at the second level."

"Mrs. Hope and her entourage are situated."

I am not making this up! This was the kind of vital information being broadcast into my ear. I, of course, relayed this to nearby spectators, who were equally amused.

But what's really great about volunteering at the tournament, apart from the opportunity to spend your money buying your own uniform, is the opportunity to see professional golfers doing the same thing we mere mortals do when we try to play golf:

Pat Perez
Pat Perez, leader through most of the tournament, fishes for his ball in the water
Scott Verplank
Scott Verplank finds his ball versunk in the sand
Yogi Berra
Yogi Berra misses a putt Actually, I'd be happy to play as well as ol' Yogi plays!

The Classic Club opened this week for public play. I don't think I'll be playing there. Not with green fees set at $250!