Bob Hope memorabilia, other celebrities on Hilton Head SC
You can call it a prostitute’s confession.
Not my confession, be careful, but we will come back to it.
What I can say is that the galaxy of stars that the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing will bring to our little sand spit this week are not our top contenders.
Golf has star power here beyond the 54th edition of our popular PGA Tour event to be played at the Harbor Town Golf Links in Sea Pines.
In fact, golf was so important to the early settlers of today’s version of Hilton Head that if you asked them where they lived, they wouldn’t answer a street, they’d say, “We’re on the 4 p.m. hole.”
Which led to people walking around in the dark, looking for houses, bumping into trees and scaring raccoons by spraying them with sour whiskey.
Yes, the Legacy has brought them all to our doorstep – Tiger, Arnie, Jack, Phil, Dustin, Rory, Ernie, Bubba, Zach, Justin, even former ball coach Steve Spurrier.
But golf has also brought many other stars here. One of them saw the real stars of our universe up close.
These stars have also helped shape who we are.
Which brings us to that magical moment when Bob Hope came to see us.
You may remember his beloved gambling book, “Confessions of a Hooker”.
The night I met Bob and Dolores Hope in Hilton Head remains a treasured memory.
He was here to play in the Lee Elder Invitational Celebrity Pro-Am golf tournament at the shipyard.
It was a traveling show, but celebrity golf has deep roots here.
For 32 years, local volunteers have organized the Hilton Head Island Celebrity Golf Tournament, raising $4 million for local children’s charities.
He elevated some New York City firefighters and veterans of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort who had returned from duty in Iraq to stardom.
And he brought to the island tees Johnny Bench and Curly Neal, Pat Boone, Bob Newhart and Cheech (and Chong) Marin, Branford Marsalis and James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Chris Farley and Lee Majors.
It also brought to our earthly dangers a silent man with a golf club in his hand named Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon.
Golf on Hilton Head is always looking for a giant leap forward for humanity. The Heritage Classic Foundation, which organizes Hilton Head’s flagship event, has used it to donate $47.5 million to charity since 1987.
Bob Hope came to the island with Calvin Peete and Johnny Mathis to help Lee Elder, the man who broke the color barrier at the Masters.
But he also came because it was Hilton Head and it was golf.
“When you have five or six of the best golf courses in the country, you have me,” Hope told me in 1985.
According to Sports Illustrated, Bob Hope has done as much for golf as Arnie Palmer, who won our first Heritage in 1969.
“Hope was more than an ancestor of pro-am, which he pioneered with co-star Bing Crosby in seven road movies,” Cameron Morfit wrote in Sports Illustrated when Hope died at the age of 100 years in 2003.
“He also played a role in many other defining moments in the development of the game over the last half-century.
“Alan Shepard’s moonshot? Hope’s idea, as he liked to say. He had clung to his driver – Shepard called it Hope’s pacifier – throughout the taping of a TV show at NASA Headquarters in 1970, giving the moon man the inspiration for his lunar six-iron.
Still clinging to a golf club, Hope “spread the gospel of golf,” Morfit wrote, “that he entertains the troops, plays with one of the six presidents he has done it with, or organize a Christmas special…”
In Hilton Head, the Lee Elder Tournament presented a fashion show one night at the Cottages in Shipyard.
After the show, Bob Hope took the stage in front of a small group consisting of Bill Russell, Ernie Banks and Joe Morgan. He used golf to make us laugh.
“You should try to play this game with Billy Graham,” he said. “He prays and I cheat.
“Of course he cheats too. Would you like it to rain, but just on you?
“And then he said, ‘He who is without sin takes the first bullet.’ ”
He turned to his good friend General William Westmoreland and said, “Here is a man who can play golf. He puts the ball on the green, comes to attention and shouts: “Fall in! ”
And he went after our 38th president, Gerald Ford.
“I love it when Gerry Ford comes to Palm Springs,” Hope said. “He has a black belt in golf. We have 73 courses and he doesn’t know which one he’s playing until he starts.
“When we get up at four, it’s Gerry Ford, myself, a paramedic and a healer. I get a caddy who has my blood type.
Then Dolores Hope took the stage and sang “It’s Wonderful” with her hubby making a soft shoe on the fashion show runway.
“Dolores has been doing this for 50 years,” Hope said. “She’s great. She had great faith in me as a lover and as an actor. I just wish she remembered when to stop laughing.
We thank our lucky stars for the memories.
David Lauderdale can be contacted at [email protected]