January 18 2012
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Greg Norman didn't plan on accepting the invitation.
The year was 1994 and the two-time major champion had just received a call from the White House. Seems President Bill Clinton was headed to Australia and he wanted to play golf with Norman.
The timing was perfect. Norman was slated to play in the Australian Open in Sydney and Clinton was to be there the same week. But the legendary Aussie, who says he's a "bit more pro-Republican than I am Democrat," just wasn't that keen on teeing it up.
"I didn't really like the way the first two years of his presidency was going," Norman recalled. "I just didn't feel comfortable with it from my own personal beliefs. So I actually came to a judgment decision saying I don't want to play because of his political position."
Still, it was the President of the United States. So Norman called Clinton's predecessor, George H.W. Bush, and told that President about the mixed emotions he was feeling.
"And he said, Greg, he says, I'm going give you a piece of advice," Norman recalled. "He said, respect the office of the Presidency of the United States. You go play with the President. No matter how you feel. So I said, yes, sir, you know, being the loyal subject, being a non-voting guy."
Norman called the White House back and said, for all practical purposes, let's do it. So after he played in the first round of the Australian Open, Norman met Clinton at New South Wales Golf Club -- which they had all to themselves that afternoon.
"And it all worked out beautifully," Norman said. "From that moment onwards, because I prejudged, I became very good friends with the person that I prejudged in the wrong way."
So when the former Chief Executive called and asked Norman to play with him in the Humana Challenge, there was no hesitation. Norman was happy to make his second appearance in the tournament once known as the Bob Hope Classic and help the tournament “resurrect” itself.
"At the end of the day, the Bob Hope -- and I'm going to use
Humana here in a minute -- but the Bob Hope was such an iconic
event, it was iconic from the celebrities, from the sponsorship
stand point, from the people in Palm Springs and this area," said
Norman, whose lone appearance in the California desert came in
1986. "We, as far as I'm concerned, I hate to see events like that
"So it was a combination of PGA TOUR wisdom and approaching the Clinton Foundation and President Clinton, it's a combination of going to Humana and structuring it the right way, because the Clinton Foundation in its own way, it's all about wellness, and then bringing somebody with the magnitude and the power and the pull of President Clinton to do that.
"It's very difficult to replace Bob Hope, you know. So to replace Bob Hope with President Clinton is, was an automatic."