The first official round of golf on the 1980 PGA tour took an average of 27 hours and 48 minutes to complete. This was because it rained so hard on Bob Hope's desert midway through last week that for a while everybody's Guccis became bathtub boats, and all those young men who normally park the Ultrasuede golf carts at Indian Wells, La Quinta, Eldorado and Bermuda Dunes had to double as valet lifeguards.
On Wednesday afternoon, during what was supposed to be the first 18 of the 90-hole $304,500 Bob Hope Desert Classic, the sky suddenly grew darker than a date milk shake, and sheets of water drowned everything from the ghosts of old movie stars at the Racquet Club to the mobile homes of Indio. For most of the field, the round was declared only half-finished. The pros marked their balls in the flood plains of Indian Wells, amid the statuary of Eldorado, around the lakes of La Quinta or on the knolls of Bermuda Dunes, which sits way out yonder apart from the others, like an outpost on the Santa Fe Trail. And, having nothing more constructive to do, the players then awarded themselves a free drop into the daily jam session at Indian Wells, where they could watch all of the hairdos by Mr. Bleach whirl around on the dance floor to this year's desert anthem, After the Lovin'.
The players were told they would complete their rounds on Thursday, and because few of them had more than nine holes to play, they were permitted a later-than-usual start. Noon. And this in turn allowed them a little extra time in the bars. So it was that a tour regular, Ed Sneed, had a conversation Wednesday evening that was not untypical of what passes for dialogue in Palm Springs between a recognizable face and not-so-knowledgeable fans. As he sat in a hotel bar with friends, Sneed found himself stared at by a strange couple. Presently the lady said, "We've seen you on television. What's your name?"
"Fred Harps," Sneed said.
"It's Fred Harps, honey," the lady said to her husband.
"It sure is," the man said, smiling.
The lady asked, "What did you shoot today?"
Sneed said, "I had a 36."
The lady seemed troubled by that report for a moment. Then, with a slight frown, she said, "What did you do with your other nine holes?"
Sneed did not stop laughing at the question until the next afternoon when he and the other 127 pros and the 384 amateurs who play the first four rounds had finished up the inaugural 18 holes of the year. For the fifth and final round, rescheduled for Monday afternoon, the amateurs would go away and the Hope would become a regular golf tournament that would see the double-knits competing against soap operas for a television audience.