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When the name's the thing
By BOB HARIG
Published January 23, 2007
Perhaps it is a stretch to attach comedian George Lopez's name to the recently concluded golf tournament in Palm Springs, the one that for years has been known as the Hope. But the tournament is trying to remain true to its past, which had Bob Hope's backing since 1965. Hence, his name still adorns the tournament - Bob Hope Chrysler Classic - and Lopez was brought on board to continue the celebrity theme at an event that says it will never ditch the Hope name.
An entire generation of fans probably aren't aware that this practice used to be common on the PGA Tour. Before corporate sponsorship became the rage but after tournaments simply went by the name of the town in which they were played, celebrities attached their names to tournaments, perhaps as a way to give back but to keep their name in lights as well.
And it was used to draw attention to golf, when spectators were more apt to watch the stars than the players. (At last week's Hope, the biggest galleries typically followed the celebrity draw.)
Hope became the unofficial host of the tournament, which started in 1960 as the Palm Springs Golf Classic. This week's tournament in San Diego used to have a celebrity host, as did one of the tournaments in Florida.
Depending on your age, the following will serve as reminder - or revelation.
Celebrity affiliation: Andy Williams
Was first called: Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational
Williams' name was on the tournament from: 1968 to 1988
Now: Buick Invitational
Pebble Beach, Calif.
Celebrity affiliation: Bing Crosby
Was first called: Bing Crosby Professional-Amateur
Crosby's name was on the tournament from: 1937 to 1985
Now: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Celebrity affiliation: Glen Campbell
Was first called: Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open
Campbell's name was on the tournament from: 1971 to 1983
Now: Nissan Open
Celebrity affiliation: Jackie Gleason
Was first called: Jackie Gleason's Inverrary Classic
Gleason's name was on the tournament from: 1972 to 1980
Now: Honda Classic
Celebrity affiliations: Dean Martin, top right, Joe Garagiola, bottom right
Was first called: Dean Martin Tucson Open
Martin's name was on the tournament from: 1973 to 1975
Was then called: Joe Garagiola Tucson Open
Garagiola's name was on the tournament from: 1976 to 1983
Now: Tucson had an opposite event sponsored by Chrysler. This year, it is hosting the World Golf Championship - Match Play Championship.
Celebrity affiliation: Danny Thomas
Was first called: Danny Thomas Memphis Classic
Thomas' name was on the tournament from: 1970 to 1984
Now: Stanford St. Jude Championship
Celebrity affiliation: Sammy Davis Jr.
Was first called: Sam Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open
Davis' name was on the tournament from: 1973 to 1988
It would have been easy to think that Hale Irwin was finished after a 2006 season in which he did not win - a first for him since joining the Champions Tour in 1995. But Irwin is nothing if not resilient, and he showed that during the weekend at the MasterCard Championship, where he shot a second-round 62 and went on to a five-stroke victory, the 45th of his Champions Tour career. That total is 16 wins more than the next best, Lee Trevino.
With his victory, Irwin became the sixth oldest winner in Champions Tour history, at 61 years, 7 months and 18 days.
The five oldest:
Mike Fetchick (63 to the day), 1985 Hilton Head Seniors Invitational
Gary Player (62 years, 9 months, 22 days), 1998 Northville Long Island Classic