The first time I was ever exposed to “celebrity” golf was as an impressionable teenager playing hooky from high school in California to visit my grandparents and watch the grand-daddy of all celebrity events, the old Bob Hope Desert Classic in Palm Springs. Old “Ski-Nose” could always draw a crowd of his actor pals to come play in his event. I also remember getting autographs from Johnny Bench and astronaut Alan Shepard and even getting to watch Vice Presidents Agnew and Ford spray balls into the gallery. There were always more laughs than birdies, because you really could interact with the stars while they played—and they loved every minute of it.
There’s not nearly as much hit-and-giggle golf on the Tours as their used to be—too many people playing much too seriously. But there are a few events that bring back the best times to watch, meet, and actually even PLAY with the stars—like Hilton Head Island’s own Celebrity Golf Tournament, coming up for the 32nd time this August 30th, 31st and September 1st at three of the Island’s most venerable venues—the Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes, the Arnold Palmer Signature Course at Wexford with the final round at Harbour Town Golf Links.
The courses are terrific, but the stars truly are the stars in this event. A terrific mixture of newcomers and long-time returnees keeps the tournament fresh every year, and the chance to get to know stars like Alice Cooper as people, and golfers, is NOT to be missed. I’ve talked with Alice at other celebrity events, and don’t know anyone who’s any more passionate about the game than he is. Truth be told, most entertainers love golf because they work at night and have all day to play while they’re touring, when they’re not on the tour bus! Cooper’s coming for the first time this year and heads a list that includes country stars Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts, actors Dennis Haysbert, David Spade, Alan Thicke and Anthony Anderson. News anchors Kyra Phillips and John Roberts, Richard Karn and Debbe Dunning from “Home Improvement”, Super Bowl champions Mark Collins and Dwight Hicks (they’ll probably bring their rings with them), even celebrity chefs like Hilton Head’s own Robert Irvine and Beau McMillan.
The opportunities to get to know these folks, who rarely bring their “entourages”, are numerous. There are off-course events, including some terrific parties and memorabilia auctions that the celebrities participate in wholeheartedly, but the best opportunity at all is to play with the stars between the ropes, really getting to know them and their families. And the proceeds benefit children’s charities in the Lowcountry to the tune of over $3.9-million over the last three decades.
The crowds are manageable, the celebrities wonderfully approachable. And the memories will last a lifetime. After all, I still remember the Hope from 4 decades ago, and have the autographs to prove it.
For more information on playing with, or at least watching when the stars come out, visit www.hhcelebritygolf.com