Part 2 – a follow up to yesterday’s story of the first round at the 1995 Bob Hope Classic.
After posting a 65, I was the leader in the clubhouse for the morning wave of pros. Our pro-amateur team was also leading. The media surrounded us as we walked out of the scoring tent, they wanted to interview Coach Ditka and I about our round. Shortly after the interviews we headed to the clubhouse to get some lunch. The course was packed with spectators and the activity around the clubhouse began to pick up as the Presidents were finishing their round. In walks Tom Poitras the Counter Assault Leader for the White House Secret Service team. He was the gentleman Eric and I had met during our practice round the previous day. He walks up to my table and says “the entire Secret Service team was pulling for you today. There was chatter on the ear pieces about how you were going to let some of us hit shots during your practice round.” He then pulls me aside and says “the Presidents are all coming inside the clubhouse, would you like to meet them?” Of course I said yes. 45 minutes go by and I’m sitting there patiently waiting and the commissioner of the TOUR Tim Finchem walks in. He comes up to me and says “great round. Are you going to the media tent or would you like to meet the Presidents?” I say “Tim, thanks but I already have that meet and greet arranged.” (Player Alert!) He had a perplexed look on his face. I thought it was best not to mention that I had offered some of the Secret Service team the opportunity to hit shots on the course during my practice round. Or that Eric was gambling against me in that same round. I just explained that I had befriended one of the Secret Service team leaders and that they were arranging the meeting. The Presidents all arrive at the same time to the club house and a Secret Service agent taps me on the shoulder and says “please follow me to the locker room.” There was an area in the locker room that was sanctioned off and I’m the only one in there. I started having flashbacks about my Ben Hogan meet and greet that never happened. Thankfully in walks three Secret Service agents and an official photographer. With them was the 41st President of the United States, George H. Bush. Let me tell you he was awesome. You can tell by the huge smile on my face in the pictures that I have shared with this story. Even though it was a brief moment it was fantastic. He sits down on the locker room bench next to me and it seemed like he was rattled. Evidently the round of Presidential Whack a Mole had taken its toll. He had been briefed by the Secret Service or his staff on who I was and how I played for the day. His first comment was “I don’t know how you pros do this with all these people watching.” Then he looks up at the Secret Service guy and asks “can you get me a Miller Lite?” I normally don’t drink at the golf course but I could not pass up the chance to have a beer with Bush so I ask for one too. We have a brief conversation about his round. He told me about how he hit a lady on the first hole and I didn’t have the guts to tell him it was my caddy Eric Egloff that told him to be quiet while standing near his bloodied ball on the 10th hole. Of course the Secret Service guy walks back in with only one beer. That was fine with me though. We get our picture taken, he finishes his beer and then they take him away to meet some other people. Another Secret Service agent tells me not to move. Then here comes the 38th President of the United States, Gerald R. Ford, Jr. It wasn’t as lively a conversation as it was with Bush. Just a brief meet and greet, handshake and a picture. I couldn’t believe I had just met two former Presidents and now it looks like I’m about to meet the sitting President.
Secret Service then escorts me out into the hallway and there is media all around us. Here comes President Clinton. He’s a lot taller in person than I thought he would be. He moves through the crowd, puts his hand on my shoulder and says “great playing.” He commented that his pro Scott Hoch had a tough day because of the crazy crowds following their group but that he really enjoyed the experience. Then he starts to ask me questions about my favorite restaurants in New Orleans. It turned into a press conference, there were cameras everywhere. It felt strange but funny that we start talking about Café Du Monde and how it’s his favorite place to visit in NOLA. It was shocking to me that he had been briefed on where I lived. It was impressive. President Clinton made me feel like we had known each other for a long time. I was speechless. Just sat there and grinned. In all reality it was a total of maybe 30 minutes from start to finish. All three Presidents in less than an hour. I’m walking out of the locker room and I’m grabbed by the Secret Service agent again. He informs me that President Clinton would like to hit some balls on the range and his staff would like for you to join him. Maybe give him some tips. Are you kidding me? I run out of the locker room and get my caddy Eric Egloff and say we are going straight to the range. President Clinton wants to hit some balls and we might be giving him a lesson. Eric went into full ‘Forrest Gump’ mode and could not stop saying the line from the famous Gump movie “Nice to meet you. Mr. President, I got to pee.” He kept practicing it over and over and even the Secret Service agents were laughing. After a few minutes, some of the Presidential entourage had arrived including a Navy chef and some Communications personnel. President Clinton walks out of the locker room and heads to the driving range. We look over and Mark O’Meara is on his hip. They are talking. Clinton walks over and says “hey Kelly, Mark is going to give me a lesson.” I say “can I introduce you to my caddy?” I was hoping he would do his Forrest Gump impression. Eric choked on some Bubba Gump shrimp. He just in awe and stuck out his hand and said “hi, I’m Eric Egloff, nice to meet you.” I was so disappointed. LOL The Secret Service guys were busting on Eric too for not doing the Forrest Gump impression. We sat there and watched as the President started hitting balls five yards away and I say to the Secret Service guys “why don’t I give you some lessons? Let ya’ll hit some balls?” One agent replies “we can’t do that but you can give the chef some tips.” The young chef’s first shot is a high blistering cut and goes over the driving range fence and into the Presidential motorcade. There were 20 plus Presidential cars and trucks lined up around the driving range and he hits the truck with the communications antenna. Word goes out on the Secret Service ear pieces that someone is throwing rocks at the motorcade. The Secret Service agents are laughing and say “get him to do it again.” He did it again. A high hozel rocket straight right that landed on a different truck. It was one of the greatest days of golf for Eric and I. As Bob Hope would famously sing, “Thanks for the Memories.”
Two years later I actually did get to play a round of golf with President Clinton in New Orleans. But that’s a story for another day.