Bush leaves legacy of pas­sion for golf and fast play

The Modesto Bee (Sunday) - - Sports - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON The As­so­ci­ated Press

As much as for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush loved golf, he was never on the course very long.

For all his pas­sion and her­itage in golf – his grand­fa­ther and fa­ther were USGA pres­i­dents – the 41st pres­i­dent was mainly known for be­ing the best ex­am­ple of Rule 6-7: “Play with­out un­due de­lay.”

Davis Love III dis­cov­ered this dur­ing one out­ing at Cape Arun­del Golf Club in Ken­neb­unkport, Maine.

“We were play­ing and one of the Se­cret Ser­vice guys, his phone starts ring­ing,” Love said. “He said, ‘Mr. Pres­i­dent, it’s Pres­i­dent Clin­ton.’ And Pres­i­dent Bush says, ‘Well, I’m hit­ting.’ He hands me the phone and says, ‘Talk to him for a sec­ond.’ So I’m there talk­ing to Pres­i­dent Clin­ton while Pres­i­dent Bush is hit­ting his shot. You just never knew what was go­ing to hap­pen next.”

Bush died Fri­day night at his home in Houston at age 94.

He was one of two pres­i­dents to be in­ducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, in 2011, two years af­ter Pres­i­dent Dwight D. Eisen­hower, and his in­volve­ment went well be­yond the golf he played so quickly.

He was hon­orary chair­man of The First Tee, the pro­gram that be­gan in 1997 to bring golf’s core val­ues to kids. He was chair­man of the Pres­i­dents Cup, and he stayed in­volved by rarely missing the bi­en­nial match, whether it was in Aus­tralia or South Africa.

For­mer PGA Tour Com­mis­sioner Tim Finchem said at Bush’s in­duc­tion cer­e­mony that The First Tee had reached 4.7 mil­lion young­sters, and “but for Pres­i­dent Bush, that would not have hap­pened.”

“He at­tended open­ings of fa­cil­i­ties. He wrote letters to peo­ple that gave money. He trav­eled, he spoke, he got on the tele­phone,” Finchem said. “He wasn’t a chair­man in name only. He worked at it.”

In­stead of rib­bons, which are hard to find on short no­tice in the Ba­hamas, some play­ers at the Hero World Chal­lenge wrote “41” on their caps.

Love was among the reg­u­lars whom Bush would in­vite to Ken­neb­unkport

for golf; Love said they were treated like fam­ily.

“He was so ex­cited about Fred Cou­ples or me or Brad Faxon try­ing to beat the course record at Cape Arun­del,” Love said. “We wanted to go fish­ing or play horse­shoes, and he wanted to play golf. But it only took us three hours. He just loved be­ing out there.”

The run­ning joke at Cape Arun­del is that Bush used to claim he had the course record – not a score, but fastest to play 18 holes. He also claimed to have his name on at least one tro­phy, say­ing in 2011 that he once cap­tured the club cham­pi­onship.

“I dusted a guy named Chad Brown,” Bush said. “My name is em­bel­lished there. It’s on the board. You can’t take it away from me.”

His golf her­itage dates to his ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, Ge­orge H. Walker, af­ter whom the Walker Cup is named. His fa­ther, Prescott Bush, was a scratch golfer.

“There’s a ge­netic short­fall and it never took,” Bush once said. “Ex­cept that I loved the game.”

Bush was hon­ored by all the ma­jor golf or­ga­ni­za­tions – the Distin­guished Ser­vice Award from the PGA of Amer­ica in 1997; the Bob Jones Award from the USGA in 2008; the Life­time Achieve­ment Award in 2009; and the Hall of Fame in 2011.

“From his love of play­ing to his self­less ded­i­ca­tion and sup­port, golf held a spe­cial place for Pres­i­dent Bush,” Finchem said. “He was the con­sum­mate am­bas­sador for golf.”

Bush was part of the pres­i­den­tial trio that played in the 2005 Bob Hope Clas­sic, join­ing for­mer Pres­i­dents Bill Clin­ton and Ger­ald Ford. He hit two spec­ta­tors, one man in the back of the leg and one woman on the bridge of her nose, draw­ing blood.

More than the golf, how­ever, Love cited re­la­tion­ships Bush forged as he told sto­ries for 10 min­utes un­in­ter­rupted.

Love re­called that in 2001, Bush came to St. Si­mons Is­land, Ga., for the Walker Cup and stayed with Love.

“We had this party for both teams at our house,” Love said. “I had put in a horse­shoe pit be­cause he was com­ing, and he’s go­ing to play the first game. He’s all ex­cited. But af­ter about five min­utes, he looks over his shoul­der and said: ‘This is rude. We ought to go back to the party.’ So here’s the pres­i­dent, dic­tat­ing what we should be do­ing. He went over to the pool, and all the Sea Is­land em­ploy­ees who were work­ing the party, he walked down the line and in­tro­duced him­self.”


For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H. W. Bush, left, and golf­ing great Arnold Palmer ac­knowl­edge the gallery at the Cham­pi­ons Tour golf tour­na­ment in The Wood­lands, Texas, in Oc­to­ber 2010. Bush, who died Fri­day, was one of two pres­i­dents in­ducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

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