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Golf fills the void Richard Pena | Sat, Jan 29 2011 12:00 PM

This weekend the San Diego area will observe the staging of the Farmer's Insurance Golf Tournament at Torrey Pines. We mention this because the event breaks the winter hiatus that we have in sports and in sport news.

It was sometime in December when the San Diego Chargers let a mediocre group of misfits from Oakland beat up on them and there went all semblances of making the playoffs. That, for all practical purposes took care of local sports, for a while anyway.

Oh, I knew the San Diego State University Aztecs had a pretty fair football season, even playing in and winning a bowl game. And I also know the State basketball team is making a bit of noise, hitting near the top of the rankings and we know that we should give them some credit since State was my Alma Mater and all.

But we also know that this is a temporary thing. Before too long the season will be over and the coach that guided them this season will probably seek greener pastures at some bigger and more renowned venue and there goes the program.

We, therefore, take heart with the golf tournament this weekend because it does, indeed, break this dearth of sports in our area. And this even though the event has a strange sounding name.

Farmers Insurance is lending its name and, no doubt, furnishing the big bucks that go with this sponsorship. This is the first year that it has had this title.

We have followed this tournament for more years than we can remember and its sponsors have numbered many. In recent years it was known as the Buick Open. This was always good for everyone, players, spectators, and local Buick dealers. There were many cars, all Buicks, of course, furnished to the players and others. These cars were then sold at a discount after the tournament making everyone happy.

I recall one incident in one of the early years of the Buick Open. Tournament officials, who are always looking for volunteers, asked for drivers for golfers. I was interested in that so I called for information. The driver was to pick up the car and then the golfer and squire him to the course, naturally, and then probably back to his lodgings. The day for the driver started at about five in the morning.

After my U.S. Navy days I developed somewhat of an aversion to alarm clocks and early rising. I, therefore, had to renege on the chauffeur gig.

The San Diego Open, in addition to having had many sponsors over the years has also been played at many golf courses. One of the earliest that I can remember was staged at Singing Hills. This was back in the days of Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and others of that era. A gallery favorite at that tournament was Tommy Bolt who had the nickname of Terrible Tom. He had a temper that manifested itself in many ways the most obvious one- throwing clubs in anger.

In later years many of Bolt's followers came to the conclusion that this was just a show. In an interview he had stated that if one is going to throw a club in anger always throw it in the direction that one is walking. It is rather demeaning, he added, to throw it behind you and then has to walk all the way back to pick it up.

In its heyday, that is, the tournaments in the 60s and 70s I used to like to attend on Wednesday, the pro-am day. On that particular day you might see many folks that you would not ordinarily meet up with. I saw presidents, public officials, and, of course, many folks from the entertainment business. I recall once when the tourney was held in Mission Valley at what was then the Stardust Country Club. The tournament was then known as the Andy Williams Open since the singer. Williams was the principal sponsor.

I, along with many others, was following a foursome of three professional golfers and Williams. During the walk over three or four holes I struck up a conversation with a pleasant, young lady who seemed to know quite a bit about golf and the players. After a few holes she left us common folks, ducked under the barricading rope and went up to Williams who immediately embraced her. I learned that I had been speaking with Mrs. Williams and was unaware of it. That was the nearest I came to fame that year.

Three years ago Torrey Pines hosted the U.S. Open one of the major golf tournaments. My son David was visiting here and he had tickets. I, therefore, went out there a couple of days and watched Tiger Woods win in heroic fashion since he was playing with a gimpy leg. This weekend, alas, I will be watching it but from the confines of my La-Z-Boy. These days I am the one with the gimpy legs, among other things. Nevertheless, I will be greeting the 2011 sporting world in San Diego.



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