Since 1960, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic has attracted the hottest celebrities and sports figures from around the world and has become one of the most entertaining PGA events on the tour.
The Bob Hope Classic is held in La Quinta, Ca, just outside of Palm Springs. Trust me, this is one of the best events in the PGA to attend live and its right here in Southern California. Get your Bob Hope Class tickets today from citrustickets.com.
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Bob Hope Classic History
It was only coincidental the Palm Springs Golf Classic was founded in 1960, what many believe was one of the most important years in the history of the game of golf. It was also a coincidence that the tournament’s first winner was Arnold Palmer who, a few months later, would put golf on the front page of America’s sports pages, earning forever the title “King”.
Arnie didn’t just win the first Classic he dominated the field. His total of 338 (22 under par) set a tournament record that would not be broken for nearly 20 years. It was also the first of his eight victories in the 1960 season Arnie’s best-ever year as a professional.
Palmer continued to reign supreme at the Bob Hope Desert Classic during the decade. He added victories in 1962 and 1968 with runner-up finishes in 1965 and 1966.
The Classic’s early years determined the format and traditions which remain to this day. Bob Rosburg is credited with creating the tournament’s unique five-day format played over four different courses. The founding courses played were Thunderbird, Tamarisk, Bermuda Dunes and Indian Wells Country Clubs. The tradition of the Classic Girls began in the event’s early years, with the earliest tournaments having a Classic Queen (Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell and Jill St. John were early title holders.)
From the start, the Classic attracted an unbelievable array of celebrities to compete in the tournament’s pro-am competition. Some of the early stars are now legends: Bing Crosby, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Phil Harris, Desi Arnaz, Ray Bolger and Hoagy Carmichael. Dwight Eisenhower was the first former President to play in the tournament and of course, the biggest celebrity of all, Bob Hope, played in the early years, added his name to the tournament in 1965 and became the Classic’s Chairman of the Board.
But the Classic’s most extraordinary challenge was the fabulous $50,000 prize offered for a hole-in-one. Consider how tremendous that prize was: Arnold Palmer won eight times in 1960 (including the U.S. Open) and his total earnings for the year were $75,000.
The combination of Arnie’s victories and the hole-in-one bonanza was a winning one. The Classic was televised for the first time in 1961, becoming a pioneer in bringing the tournament’s excitement into the living rooms of golf fans around the country.
The 1960’s was an exciting decade for golf and the Bob Hope Desert Classic was one of the prime factors for making the sport popular among the general public.
The 1970’s Arnold Palmer’s reign continued in the early 70s with two more Bob Hope Classic victories, pushing his lifetime total to five. By the middle of the decade, the Classic torch had been passed to Johnny Miller, who put his indelible stamp on all desert tournaments.
Miller won back-to-back Classic titles in 1975 and 1976 and had six consecutive top-four finishes beginning in 1972. His desert mastery also included events at Phoenix and Tucson, and in the memorable year of 1975, he made a clean sweep of the desert with victories in all three events.
Frank Sinatra made his Hope debut in 1972. Other stars of the era who played often were Jack Benny, Andy Williams, Lawrence Welk, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jackie Gleason and Dean Martin. Gerald Ford joined the field in 1977, making him the second former president to play in the tournament. Willie Mays, Joe Louis, Johnny Bench, Merlin Olsen, John McKay, Maury Wills and Bear Bryant were among the sports world stars who teed it up in the Classic during the 70s.
Barbara Eden was the first Classic Queen of the 70s, reigning over a court that wore outfits with “Bob”, “Hope” and “Classic” emblazoned across the front. Other Classic Queens during the decade were Gloria Loring, Brucence Smith, Linda Carter, Lexie Brockway and Terry Ann Browning. The last four were also Miss World USA. Beginning in 1975 the Bob Hope Classic Girls became the ambassadors of the Classic, as there was no longer a queen. By this time, Bermuda Dunes, Indian Wells and La Quinta served as the host courses on a rotating basis. Eldorado and Tamarisk rotated as the fourth course in the lineup each year.
The 1980’sThe third decade of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was a period of significant change both for the tournament and the PGA TOUR. These steps forward in the 1970’s were largely responsible for the tremendous success of the Classic and the TOUR in the 1980’s.
For the Classic, the biggest step was the addition of Chrysler to the tournament’s name in 1985 as our title sponsor. The auto manufacturer had been a major sponsor of the telecast for several years, but saw the opportunity to further showcase their products through this association.
These two changes had an immediate impact in the size of the Classic’s purse. In only nine years, the Classic’s total purse had increased 228 per cent.
Yet another significant change was the addition of a new course. PGA WEST was added to the Classic’s course rotation in 1987. The first year, the Stadium Course was the host course, with the Palmer Course being utilized in later years.
The Classic did set a new standard, of sorts in the 1980’s by becoming the leader among all TOUR events for playoffs. In the eight tournaments from 1982 to 1989, six were decided in sudden death.
In the first playoff, Ed Fiori eliminated Tom Kite to take the title, while the next year, Keith Fergus survived a playoff against Rex Caldwell. In 1984, the Classic’s Silver Anniversary, John Mahaffey outlasted Jim Simons on the second hole of sudden death.
The next year, the new tradition continued in one of the Classic’s greatest confrontations. Lanny Wadkins and Craig Stadler were deadlocked at the end of regulation, with Wadkins prevailing on the fifth dramatic hole of sudden death tie. It was high drama, including Stadler hitting from a bush on the rocky hillside beside Indian Wells Country Club’s 18 fairway.
Donnie Hammond was the winner the following year in the Classic’s fifth straight playoff. The 1980’s saw more change and more drama than the previous twenty years at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. But as they used to say in vaudeville, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
The 1990’s The first three decades of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic produced incredible drama featuring the reigning stars of their eras. In retrospect, however, those first thirty years served as a warm-up to some of the most exciting golf played on any Tour in the world.
Peter Jacobsen kicked off the 1990’s with a popular, one-shot victory. His win, however, was a prelude to the next three Classics, which were among the most exciting in the tournament’s history.
In 1991, birdies were raining everywhere, as three players broke the tournament record. Corey Pavin, winner of the 1987 Classic, and Mark O’Meara finished the regulation 90 holes at 29 under par. On the first playoff hole, the 17th at Indian Wells Country Club, O’Meara appeared to have a distinct advantage. Mark had a 20-foot birdie putt while Pavin was in the rough with a difficult chip. That advantage disappeared when Pavin holed the 40-foot chip, O’Meara missed and Pavin took his second Classic crown. While 1991’s playoff was exciting, the one in 1992 probably was the most exciting sudden death playoff in Classic history.
Five players finished tied in regulation (equalling the existing TOUR record). John Cook, Gene Sauers, Rich Fehr, Tom Kite and Mark O’Meara teed it up in overtime. Kite and O’Meara were eliminated on the first hole with par fives. Fehr was the next to fall when both Cook and Sauers birdied the second hole, Bermuda Dunes’ par five 18th. Cook of Rancho Mirage then took the title when he chipped in for eagle, finishing the four playoff holes in five under par!
While the 1993 Classic didn’t have the customary playoff, it did feature one of the most historic achievements in golf. Tom Kite, the reigning U.S. Open champion, did the seemingly impossible. He finished 90 holes in 35 under par, including a course record 62 in the final round at the challenging Palmer Course at PGA WEST. He broke the PGA TOUR’s 90-hole record by six shots in a performance for the ages.
Mark Calcavecchia seemed to have the 1997 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in his pocket. Going into the final round, he was three strokes better than John Cook with a 72-hole tournament record of 26-under-par. Cook, however, had moved up on Saturday with a brilliant 62 at Indian Wells. Playing head to head on Sunday, Cook finally caught Calcavecchia on the 11th hole and passed him on the 17th when Mark bogied.
With a closing birdie, Cook had fired a 63 in the final round with his consecutive rounds of 62 and 63 tying the PGA TOUR record. Cook had accomplished the same feat the previous year, making him the only golfer to ever have performed the feat twice.
The biggest single news event at the Classic during the ’90’s didn’t even involve the world’s top professionals. In 1995, the team of President Bill Clinton, President George Bush, President Gerald R. Ford, Tournament Host Bob Hope and defending champion Scott Hoch teed it up for the tournament’s opening round (with the White House Press Corps and 25,000 fans following behind). This historic day was the first time a sitting president had played during a PGA TOUR event and perhaps the first time three presidents had played together ever.
Another huge development during the decade was the tremendous increase in the tournament’s purse. The decade began with a $1 million purse for the 1990 tournament. The purse had increased for six years until the 1998 tournament, when Fred Couples took home the lion’s share of $2.3 million. In 1999, the purse increases again this time to $3 million with the winner taking home $540,000.
The 2000’s The four Classics played in the new millennium have spotlighted three of the game’s most popular stars and one of the most dominating performances ever by an up and coming star.
Jesper Parnevik, the exciting Swede known for his colorful, retro attire, started things off right with his victory in the 2000 Classic. It marked only the second time a foreign-born golfer had won the tournament (Bruce Devlin in 1970 was the first).
Parnevik won the 2000 Classic in exciting fashion – never leading the tournament until the 90th and final hole. Jesper entered the final round two strokes back of Rory Sabbatini of South Africa, but a string of birdies tied him for the lead as he stood on the 18th tee. He stroked his second shot on the green and two-putted for birdie, the second putt from four feet. Sabbatini, needing birdie to tie, had tree trouble off the tee, then failed to make a 25-footer to match Parnevik at 331, 29 under par.
In the 2001 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Joe Durant emerged as the new star on TOUR. All the veteran pro did was break the Classic’s 36-hole, 54-hole, 72-hole and 90-hole records. The latter two marks (72 holes, 29 under par and 90 holes, 36 under par) also were PGA TOUR records.
Durant’s performance was so dominating the only major question to be answered during the final round was whether he could topple Tom Kite’s 90-hole tournament and TOUR scoring mark of 35 under par. He waited until the 17th green to answer that question, rolling in a 12-foot putt to reach the magic 36 under mark. When he holed out on the final green, he had set a new record by a shot and had defeated Paul Stankowski by four shots and Mark Calcavecchia by six shots.
The 2002 Classic put the second ranked player in the world in the spotlight. Lefty Phil Mickelson was playing in his first tournament in five months, having chosen to spend time with his wife Amy during the birth of their second child. The press speculated whether his game was “rusty” or not.
Mickelson opened with a 64, which seemed to dispel doubts as to whether his game was sharp or not. He was content to stay in a pack of golfers close to the lead until late on the back nine in Sunday’s final round. He birdied the last two holes to finish at 30 under par, which was later matched by David Berganio, Jr. Mickelson put the finishing touch on his starring role at the Classic when he tapped in a short putt for on a birdie on the first hole of the sudden death playoff.
In 2003, the Classic was won for the second straight year by a lefthander, Canada’s Mike Weir, who many consider was playing like the top “lefty” early in the year. Following a disappointing 2002 season, Weir started the 2003 season like a lion. After a Top Ten finish in Phoenix, he quietly played himself into contention at the Classic during Sunday’s back nine. Tim Herron had been leading by four shots starting the day, but a quadruple bogey eight at the 16th hole sank his chances.
After Weir rammed home a 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, he was tied with veteran Jay Haas, with whom he was paired. Both drove in the fairway, with Weir laying up after his drive found a downhill lie to the par 5 final hole. Haas struck his iron shot slightly thin and it failed to carry the lake fronting the green by a couple of feet. Weir pitched to three feet, then stroked home the putt for a two-shot victory. He followed his Classic win with a victory in LA two weeks later and took home the $500,000 bonus for winning the year’s “West Coast Swing”.
Bob Hope Classic Girls
Another unique feature of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic is its Classic Girls: a trio of beauties who make pre-tournament appearances and are on hand for all the festivities of tournament week. The tradition dates back to 1960 when long-time Classic public relations director Cliff Brown developed the idea of having a Classic Queen to help promote the fledgling tournament. Among the earliest queens were such stars as Debbie Reynolds, Ann Blyth, Jane Powell, Donna Douglas and Jill St. John.
In 1968 (and for the following seven years), the Classic had a Queen plus three Classic girls, making up the Queen’s court. Queens during that era included Barbara Eden, singer Gloria Loring and “Wonder Woman” Linda Carter. Three Classic girls have been our ambassadors since 1976.
Each year, dozens of young ladies apply to be Classic Girls and three are selected based on their appearance and personalities. Since Chrysler became the event’s title sponsor in 1986, the three Classic Girls are known as “Hope”, “Chrysler” and Classic”.