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Hope Golf Event Gets Retooled

Times Staff Writer

It got a face lift last year when the Classic Club became the host course, and now the Bob Hope tournament is getting a name change. It will be known as the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic Hosted by George Lopez.

The announcement will be made today at Warner Bros. Studios on the set of “George Lopez.”

Lopez, an actor and comedian, has been a regular in the celebrity field at the Hope and jumped at the chance to lend his name to the tournament that began in 1960 as the Palm Springs Golf Classic. It became the Bob Hope Desert Classic in 1965.

“To follow in the footsteps of Bob Hope, and with what golf means to me, this is the greatest honor,” Lopez said. “The energy Bob brought, with Frank Sinatra and when the presidents played the tournament, I want to try to get that energy back, or make it even greater.”

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Hope died at 100 in 2003.

John Foster, president of the 2007 Hope and a member of the executive board, said the tournament’s arrangement with Lopez was open-ended. He also said Hope’s widow, Dolores, was pleased to have Lopez on board.

“It’s been evident to us since Hope’s passing that we lost a little bit of Hope’s electricity,” Foster said. “We’re a celebrity tournament, besides a PGA Tour event, and George is a sign of the times. I think he’s really going to be dynamite.”

Lopez said he would try to help beef up the celebrity field, and continue traditions established by Hope.

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“For me to be that guy, the only celebrity-hosting guy on the PGA Tour, that’s deep,” he said.

Lopez added that he would schedule a concert Friday night of tournament week, with the musical group War, at Fantasy Springs Casino.

That’s a step in the right direction, said Peter Jacobsen, winner of the tournament in 1990.

“I felt it was important to have a celebrity host the Bob Hope and George is going to bring exactly what the Bob Hope needs,” Jacobsen said.

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“He’s just so likable. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were the forerunners of this type of event, and Glen Campbell, Andy Williams and Jackie Gleason, people like that, were part of events that became my favorite tournaments to play.”

Lopez, 43, who was born in Mission Hills, is also a stand-up comic and accentuates his Latino heritage.

“I got to love golf because it was the first time I got to hit something white legally,” he said.

Lopez joked that he intends to break out a custom cart for next year’s event -- a $40,000 low-rider.

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The 90-hole tournament will be played Jan. 17-21.

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Two local Nationwide Tour events also got new names with the addition Monday of presenting sponsors. The Eric Dickerson Celebrity Challenge, presented by Time Warner Cable, on Sept. 30 at Empire Lakes Golf Course in Rancho Cucamonga, will be a prelude to the Mark Christopher Charity Classic, presented by the County of San Bernardino, at Empire Lakes on Oct. 5-8.


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