Andy Williams one of the first celebs to put his name on a PGA Tour event

Bing Crosby lent his name to a PGA Tour event before World War II, a little tournament down in Rancho Santa Fe. After World War II, the tournament moved to Pebble Beach and became famous as the Crosby Clambake.

In 1965, Bob Hope officially put his name on the tour event in the Coachella Valley. Three years later, it was the San Diego stop that had a celebrity on the title of the event. The San Diego Open became the Andy Williams San Diego Open.

Williams, the long-time La Quinta resident who died Thursday night at his other home in Branson, Missouri, was never as identified with the game as Crosby or Hope. Still, he had a 20-year run as the host of the San Dieo tournament, bringing attention to the tour stop there and having friendships with pros. He also was a fixture in other tour pro-ams, like the Hope event. Williams told me a few years ago that there was never an agreement that, hey, I’ll play in your tournament if you play in mine among celebrities. But what celebrity, given the chance, wouldn’t want to play in a pro-am in San Diego or La Quinta?

In many ways, Williams was the example of how the celebrity host on the PGA Tour was born, grew strong and eventually drifted away. After Williams joined the San Diego tournament, people like Danny Thomas, Glen Campbell, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis. Jr. and others put there names on events. But slowly the tour and tournaments began to understand that corporations could bring them more money than celebrities, and that celebrity fame could only offer a tournament so much. In his 20 years with the San Diego event, Williams was forced to share the marquee with a furniture store, a car manufacturer and eventually a financial company. After the 1988 event, Williams name was off the tournament.

When talking to me for a book I was writing about the Bob Hope golf tournament, Williams did express frustration that he was kind of kicked to the crub by the San Diego event after 20 years of working hard to promote the tournament and putting on gala shows during the week of the event. It was a feeling many celebrities had as their names were replaced by corporations at tournaments.

But Williams remained an active member at La Quinta Country Club and he continued his highly successful singing career. He was one of the first celebrities to truly embrace the possibilities of Branson, building his own theater there, the Moon River Theater. And Williams continued to return to the desert and his beloved La Quinta Country Club.

First came Crosby, then came Hope to PGA Tour events, but Williams was just behind Hope on that list. Hopefully the golf world will remember that today.

Steve Williams needs to shut up

Caddies are like umpires in baseball. They are probably doing their job the best when you never even notice they are there.

Steve Williams, the former caddie for Tiger Woods now looping for Adam Scott, needs to understand that.

Caddie and lightning rod Steve Williams (AP photo)

Okay, for the record, Williams’ comments over the weekend about the enthusiasm for his celebration when Scott won the Bridgestone Invitational just weeks after Williams was fired by Woods, were unacceptable on just about any level you’d like to discuss.  Whether Williams is a racist can’t be determined from his comments, but whether the comments were inappropriate can’t be argued. Williams was wrong to have said what he said (no reason to repeat the comments here) even in a setting where he felt the comments wouldn’t come to public attention.

But what makes the situation worse is that Williams’ comments put pressure on his current employer, Scott. Scott is being asked about the comments, having to, in a sense, defend his caddie’s right to be stupid. And Scott is being asked about firing Williams. Scott doesn’t not need those questions in his life, but Williams forced the issue with his thoughlessness.

I said at the time of Williams’ celebration with Scott’s win in August that Williams would be just another nameless caddie on the PGA Tour if it were not for his association with Woods. A good caddie, for sure, but nameless as are so many other good caddie to the general public. I felt like Williams was lacking in a little gratitude for Woods, who make Williams millions of dollars in their 12-year association.

Now Williams has revealed more bad feelings for Woods, and you still have to wonder why. Williams had a great run with Woods, and yes Williams may have a right to be miffed at how the relationship ended. But that’s like a guy who had a sitcom on television for 12 years complaining that the show was canceled. Listen, you were fortunate to have 12 years in a business that can cancel a show in 12 weeks.

So Williams, for the sake of his reputaton, for the same of Woods and for the sake of Scott, needs to shut up for a while.

On another note, do you suppose Woods and Scott (and Williams) might be paired in a singles match at the Presidents Cup in two weeks? Hmmmmm . . .

 

 

A split decision on caddies is a good thing?

Somedays you can’t please everyone when you write a column. Somedays, 50 percent is a good batting average for reader reaction.

This is one of those days. I wrote a column for today’s Desert Sun kind of wondering how golf has devolved into a kind of reality television show, with caddies calling out players. It was all spurred by Steve Williams’ comments about how his win with Adam Scott Sunday in the WGC Bridgestone event was the most satisfying of his career, an odd comment given he had worekd for the last 12 years for Tiger Woods.

When I walked in the office today, I had two calls on my voice mail waiting for me. The first was from a woman, who was very nice. Gee, I’ve never done this before, and in general we really like you column, but my husband and I both thing you really missed the boat on your column today.

I never got the gist of what he problem was, whether she just thought Steve Williams had the right to say what he said our whether she thinks any criticism of Woods is a good thing.

Then came the next message. Hi, this is so-and-so from Rancho La Quinta. Great column today.

This man seemed to go with the idea that caddies are to be seen and not heard when it comes to the public and that Williams had kind of stolen the spotlight from Scott. And that things are getting a little uncivil in golf.

For what it is wiorth, Williams came out today and kind of admitted that his reaction to the win was a little over the top and he certainly wasn’t trying to steal the moment from the player who had hit all the shots.

So, two calls, one in favor and one against. It’s running about the same on the 10 or so e-mails I’ve received from readers, too.

You can’t please them all. In fact, sometimes, 50 percent is the best you can do. Ah well . . .

A weird weekend in golf, thanks in part to Steve Williams

Who is doing the congratulating here, player Adam Scott or caddie Steve Williams (AP photo)

Just some thoughts on a strange weekend in golf:

– Steve Williams, who didn’t hit a single shot at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, called it the greatest win of his career. Williams, of course, carried Adam Scott’s bag in the event, the first event after Williams and Tiger Woods made their split official. Question: if Williams was so important to Scott’s victory this week, why did Scott finish ahead of Woods at the Masters when Williams was still on Tiger’s bag? And why didn’t Scott win the U.S. Open when Williams was on Scott’s bag. It’s the player, guys, the player . . .

–Meanwhile, I might be the only one, but it seemed to be a little unseemly for Williams to take shots at Woods after Sunday’s round. The only reason anyone is paying attention to Williams now or over the last 12 years is because of Woods. Okay, it ended badly. What about a little decorum over the previous 11 years that made Wiliams rich and gave him endorsement deals? Maybe the memory on Williams is a little short.

–Why did this all play out like a reality show, “Desperate Caddies of the PGA Tour”?

–I saw nothing over the weekend that makes me think Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald shouldn’t be co-favorite at the PGA Championship this week. And I saw nothing that makes me thing Woods should be considered a top-20 contender.

–As for Scott, no player using a long putter has ever won a major. Coupld be time to change that.

–Jay Haas isn’t a desert resident, but with a win in the 1988 Bob Hope Classic, a son who also won that tournament and with frequent trips to the desert to work with teaching pro and friend Bill Harmon, it’s easy to consider Haas a local. So it was nice to see Jay break a winless streak of almost two yar with a final-hole birdie in the Champions Tour event Sunday. That came just a week after his son Bill lost in a playoff on the PGA Tour.

–Another former Hope winner, Pat Perez, apologized on twitter today after he was seen storming past a couple of kids asking for autographs when it became apparent Perez would finish one shot short in the Reno-Tahoe Open Sunday. Pat is generally a good guy, but he lets his temper and competitiveness get the better of him at times, and this was one of those times. And it was caught on television.

–It’s PGA Championship week, the last major of the year. The last 12 majors have been won by 12 different players in men’s golf? I like Donald to make it 13 out of 13.

Tiger, Stevie and why it all fell apart

Top five reasons Tiger Woods might have fired long-time caddie Stevie Williams . . .

5. Tiger was offended that Williams actually went out and found work with another player (Adam Scott) while Tiger is on the sidelines. It’s possible Tiger wanted Stevie to be sitting at home staring at the phone waiting for it to ring.

Steve Williams and Tiger Woods (AP photo)

4. It’s possible Tiger was tired of Williams getting publicity about being Tiger’s caddie. Remember, there was all kinds of talk that Tiger fired his first caddie, Fluff Cowan, because Cowan was doing commercials, and that Woods fired Butch Sheehan as his first swing coach because Butch was getting a higher profile from being Tiger’s swing coach.

3. Tiger might be getting rid of everything that was part of his old life as a way of saying, hey, it wasn’t me, it was all these people I was hanging around with. If this is true, it won’t work.

2. Tiger might be getting rid of everything that was part of his old life as a way of saying, hey, you know, I need to make a clean slate of my life and start over and be more in control. Let’s just start from scratch. If this is true, it’s not the worst idea in the world.

1. It’s possible that in the grand scheme of things, it was just time for Tiger and Stevie to split. Listen, they were together for 12 years. That’s a long, long, long time for a caddie and a player to be together. Yes, they had great success together. Heck, Tom Watson and Bruce Edwards split at one time, and they were the model player/caddie relationship. But Stevie has nothing to be bitter about. He’s done well for himself as Tiger’s caddie (old joke: Tiger is the top money winner this year, Stevie is 22nd on the money list). And he’ll have a job looping for any player in golf if he wants. And Tiger can have an caddie he wants (Irish sports broker Paddy Power has install Fanny Sunesson as the favorite to be his new cadie at 6/4. That would be fun to watch). So maybe this is nothing more than a split by a player and a caddie, just a high-profiel player and a high-profile caddie.


Tiger, Stevie and why it fell apart

Top five reasons Tiger Woods might have fired long-time caddie Stevie Williams . . .

5. Tiger was offended that Williams actually went out and found work with another player (Adam Scott) while Tiger is on the sidelines. It’s possible Tiger wanted Stevie to be sitting at home staring at the phone waiting for it to ring.

Steve Williams and Tiger Woods (AP photo)

4. It’s possible Tiger was tired of Williams getting publicity about being Tiger’s caddie. Remember, there was all kinds of talk that Tiger fired his first caddie, Fluff Cowan, because Cowan was doing commercials, and that Woods fired Butch Sheehan as his first swing coach because Butch was getting a higher profile from being Tiger’s swing coach.

3. Tiger might be getting rid of everything that was part of his old life as a way of saying, hey, it wasn’t me, it was all these people I was hanging around with. If this is true, it won’t work.

2. Tiger might be getting rid of everything that was part of his old life as a way of saying, hey, you know, I need to make a clean slate of my life and start over and be more in control. Let’s just start from scratch. If this is true, it’s not the worst idea in the world.

1. It’s possible that in the grand scheme of things, it was just time for Tiger and Stevie to split. Listen, they were together for 12 years. That’s a long, long, long time for a caddie and a player to be together. Yes, they had great success together. Heck, Tom Watson and Bruce Edwards split at one time, and they were the model player/caddie relationship. But Stevie has nothing to be bitter about. He’s done well for himself as Tiger’s caddie (old joke: Tiger is the top money winner this year, Stevie is 22nd on the money list). And he’ll have a job looping for any player in golf if he wants. And Tiger can have an caddie he wants (Irish sports broker Paddy Power has install Fanny Sunesson as the favorite to be his new cadie at 6/4. That would be fun to watch). So maybe this is nothing more than a split by a player and a caddie, just a high-profiel player and a high-profile caddie.

Ending of eras never easy for athletes, fans

We saw today another bit of evidence that the Era of Federer in men’s tennis is most like over. Roger Federer lost in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon today, and worse yet, he lost after winning the first two sets of his best-of-five match.

Roger Federer fell at Wimbledon today (AP Photo)

Earlier this week we saw the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, each beaten at Wimbledon before reaching the round of 16. And the talk again was that maybe this was the end of an era in women’s tennis, with Serena coming off of major injuries and health problems and Venus alternating between injuries and a seeming desire to focus on fashion.

Of course this all comes in a week when Tiger Woods showed up to host a tournament that he can’t play in because of his health. Woods said at the AT&T National that this time he’s not going to come back to golf until he is 100 percent healthy. Whether that’s two weeks, two months or a year is anyone’s guess, including Tiger’s.

Meanwhile, down in Florida, Yankees great Derek Jeter is working to rehab a muscle strain that has taken him out of the Yankees as he pushed to get his 3,000th career hit. It’s a remarkable number, but Jeter has been slow in getting to the landmark because, well, frankly he’s just not the player or the hitter he was two years ago. And officials with the Yankees are starting to lose sleep over the fact that they soon will have to part ways with their captain, one way or another.

Nothing is as exciting as seeing a veteran athlete continue to play well and take on the new generation of the game. Nothing is as painful for many fans as watching a hero, and icon or an all-time great athlete in decline. These days, we seem to be getting hammered as fans with the end, or at least the specter of the end, of the careers of some of the most successful sports figures of the last two decades. Think back to the NFL season and the end of Brett Favre’s career.

Tiger Woods re-injured his left knee on this shot at the Masters in April (AP photo)

And in the case of Woods and Federer and Serena Williams, we might be watching the sliding away of the careers of the best who ever played their particular sports. At 35 Woods is already compared to Nicklaus and Hogan, but he’s in a deep funk that he may never climb out of. Federer has more Grand Slam titles than any male tennis player, but he’s no better than third in his own sport now behind names like Nadal and Djokovic. Williams may not hold the all-time records that Federer holds, but many will tell you that at her best, Williams was the top female tennis player of all time.

As tough as it is for fans to watch the end of days for top players (although it should be noted there are many golf fans who express to me that they wish Woods would just go away and stay away for good), it must be tougher for the athletes. The sport is all they have ever known, in most cases. The sport has brough them fame and fortune beyond what the had ever hoped. And now they are looking at the idea of leaving the sport. And what the heck are they going to do after they leave the sport.

Will they go bankrupt? Will they get divorced? Will they become expert television commentators? Will they slip into obscurity, only to pop out a few years from now when they are elected to their respective Halls of Fame? Or will they go on to live perfectly happy, normal and fulfilling lives?

Woods may have a comeback in him. So might Serena Williams. Federer might have another Grand Slam title in him, and Jeter might have one more hitting streak to put together.

But pretty soon, maybe sooner than later, we’ll be without some or all of these all-time greats. It won’t be easy for fans, but it will likely be much tougher on the athletes.