Bob Hope Chrysler Classic: The Stars Come Out in Palm Springs

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

The PGA Tour makes its annual leap back to the mainland this week after its two-tournament "Aloha Swing" through Hawaii.

And what a leap it is.

Straight into Hollywood's playground of Palm Springs for the playing of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. This five-day pro-am is held on four different desert courses, and is known for its middle of the green pin placements and picture perfect playing conditions.

Oh, and its also known to draw a few famous faces out onto the links, as well.

No celebrity has done more for the game of golf than Bob Hope, and his namesake PGA Tour event pulls the stars out of La La land no other celebrity pro-am.

"Bob Hope has been unbelievable for the game of golf," says veteran PGA Tour player Mark O'Meara. "He is a legend in the entertainment world but also I really truly believe he is a major factor in the game of golf. His love for the game, his passion for the game has been unsurpassed by anyone I know."

This year, Joe Durant will defend his title, in competition with 128 other players including Phil Mickelson, David Duval, Stuart Appleby, John Daly, Fred Couples, Justin Leonard, O'Meara, and Hal Sutton, among others. But you are just as likely to see rock star Alice Cooper, soap opera actor Jack Wagner, or pop singer Amy Grant gracing the grounds as you are a PGA Tour player.

"Sometimes you play with Amy Grant and a member of Metallica," says Cooper. "But what's the common denominator? It is golf. You still have to hit the ball, no matter what you do for a living."

Hit the golf ball is exactly what Duval did in 1999, in route to the winners circle and a Tour record tying 59 in the final round. Last year, Durant blistered the Classic's four courses for a 36-under and set a record for the lowest score ever in a 90-hole Tour event. No doubt, going low is the theme of the week at this fun-filled West Coast Swing

The Courses: The Arnold Palmer Private Course at PGA West (pictured) was the second of four courses to be added to the 2,010-acre recreational resort development in La Quinta, California. The course was designed to facilitate the average golf games of its members, and the dart throwing approach shot of Tour professionals. The course has also hosted a PGA Tour qualifier, and plays to a slope of 140 from the Championship Tees. Palmer's design team routed five par threes and five par fives into the course, creating many opportunities for theatrics and heroics.

Bermuda Dunes Country Club is set amid the towering Santa Rosa, San Jacinto and Shadow Mountain ranges. It is one of the most familiar names in desert golf, and has participated in the "Classic" since its inception 43 years ago. With a slope of just 122 from the back tees, the Tour Players typically look forward to slaughtering this venerable Billy Bell designed layout.

Indian Wells Country Club is challenging track that winds its way through the coves of the Santa Rosa Mountains, combining natural ruggedness with lush oasis beauty. The facility has been a Bob Hope Chrysler Classic course in each of the 40 years the tournament has been played. In the 1995 Classic, it hosted to a Presidential foursome that included Bill Clinton, George Bush and Gerald Ford playing with Bob Hope.

Tamarisk Country Club's championship course (at right) is framed by a generation of tall trees and lush shrubbery frame. After two years of redesigning, the course now includes strategic new bunker groupings on several holes. Soft mounds and other design elements have been added throughout the course.

The Favorites: Durant and Duval have to be among the favorites, as both players have demonstrated an ability to flat out dominate the field in the ideal playing conditions of Palm Springs. Sergio Garcia and Jerry Kelly are the hot players of late, both having won on the Tour's Aloha Swing. Fred Couples and Mark Calcavecchia get the darkhorse nod. Both hit a high, left to right shaped ball that enables them to stake the middle of the green pins in the Classic's benign weather conditions.

Travel Center: For an overview of Palm Springs golf, check out our related article, "Teeing it up in Hollywood's Playground." Palm Springs has long been considered the home of upscale, desert golf. Scottsdale and Las Vegas have emerged as worth challengers, but a sojourn to this desert oasis is a must for every hard-core golfer. Obviously, the region sets up perfectly for golf in the winter, but some killer discounts are available to players willing to brave the 100-degree temperatures of the summer months.

Tournament Fast Facts:

Champion: Joe Durant
Purse: $4 million
Winning Share: $720,000
Winning Score: 324
Yards: 6,931 (PGA West)
TV: Wed. 4-6 p.m. ET (ESPN); Thu./Fri. 3-6 p.m. ET (ESPN); Sat./Sun. 3-6 p.m. ET (ABC)

Did You Know?

Each year, more than 1,200 volunteers donate nearly 100,000 hours of time to make the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic a success. Thanks to their efforts, the tournament has donated over $35 million to local charities since 1960.

The PGA Tour contributed to this report.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of from 1997 to 2003.

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