San Diego Open : Ford and Hope Share the Spotlight in Pro-Am

Times Staff Writer

After an overcast morning, the sun appeared shortly after noon, about the same time that Bob Hope was preparing to tee off in Wednesday's Pro-Am at the Shearson Lehman Brothers Andy Williams Open.

Hope, whose group included former President Gerald Ford, San Diego Charger owner Alex Spanos, tour pro Craig Stadler and amateur Alfred Martinelli, offered a scouting report before beginning play.

On Spanos: "If there's important money at stake, Alex will go to the whip real fast."

On Ford: "There are more than 75 courses in Palm Springs (where Hope and Ford have homes). President Ford doesn't know which course he will play until after his first tee shot."

A few minutes later, Ford would prove the accuracy of his friend's jest.

But first, a little gag.

Driver in hand, serious look in place, gallery silent in anticipation, the former president was about to strike the ball.

On cue, Hope stole the moment by calling out "Uh!" and marching over to give Ford a tip. This, of course, drew laughter from the crowd.

There was nothing intentional about what happened next.

Living up to his image as a golfer who can hit the ball in any direction at any time, Ford brought laughs at his own expense by weakly hooking his first drive into the crowd lining the fairway.

Standing nearby, Hope threw his driver to the ground, as if in surrender.

Ford, who has been enduring this sort of thing for years, gracefully went about business, leaving the tee to Hope.

As he was being formally introduced, Hope appeared to bask in the acknowledgment of his accomplishments. "Take your time," he said as the list was dutifully read.

Hope's first drive was significantly longer, but not appreciably straighter, than Ford's.

After driving his cart down the fairway, Hope found that a marshal had taken down a restraining rope and moved the crowd back.

"You should've kicked it out," Hope said, playfully admonishing a spectator.

As he was about to knock the ball out of the rough, a woman laughed, causing Hope to pause.

"They usually don't laugh until after the shot," he said. Then he hummed an unrecognizable tune and knocked the ball out of the problem lie. Once on the green, the problems lessened for the biggest celebrities in the Andy Williams field.

After making a short putt, Ford joked: "That was a lot better than my drive."

Hope also made his putt, which he followed by leaning back and shaking his arm in the exaggerated manner of a tour pro.

Tournament play begins today with a field of 156 players. The field will be reduced to 70 low scores and ties for the final two rounds.

This year's lineup, which includes Severiano Ballesteros, Andy Bean, Ray Floyd, Tom Kite, Stadler and Tom Watson, is considered the strongest in the past five years.

The defending champion is Bob Tway.

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