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Published: Sunday, 1/17/2010

Florida museum applauds avid golfer Bob Hope

A jewel in the 6,300-acre World Golf Village showplace just off I-95 between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, Fla., touches the hearts of visitors with fond memories of Bob Hope. How often can you go to a museum and hear laughter from every corner of the exhibit rooms?

That's the mood at the exhibit at the World Golf Hall of Fame that drew such large crowds the first year that Hope's widow, Dolores, and the Hope children decided to leave the family's memorabilia through 2010. The more than 400 artifacts and 300 images recall the entertainer's passion for golf in four large rooms, but for nongolfers the incredible collection is a reminder of his fame beyond the golf course.

A passionate golfer and fan of the sport, audio recordings help give life to the exhibit, which has "Shanks for the Memories." A short clip of a Bromo Seltzer radio commercial in 1934 takes visitors back to the actor's first public media endeavor.

Quotations that are arranged along with action shots on courses with golfing greats show a serious side to the man who made the world laugh.

"Golf is a bond that has drawn us all together and created a special fraternity among the celebrities of show business, sports, and politics," he said.

"I never dreamed when I took up golf that I would be playing with kings, presidents, actors, singers, TV stars, corporate tycoons, and athletes," he is quoted as saying.

A close friendship with Arnold Palmer, who provided a 15-minute monologue used at the beginning of the exhibit, is obvious in photographs and audios.

"He was the biggest crowd-pleaser since the invention of portable sanitary facilities," Hope said. "He has won as much money as I've spent on lessons."

Hope's daughter, Linda Hope, is credited for her major role in making the exhibit happen and having it moved from California to Florida.

"The family is thrilled that the World Golf Hall of Fame is going to exhibit Dad's golf memorabilia," she said at the opening in 2009. "Dad would have loved the idea that things he saved and cherished will finally be shared with others who love the game of golf."

The lunar club is especially unique in the collection. The aluminum Wilson iron is said to have been used by Alan Shepard on the moon on the Apollo space flight.

Considered by many to be the world's greatest promoter of the game, particularly the PGA tour's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, he admitted to playing on 2,000 courses around the world.

"Golf is my profession. I tell jokes to pay my green fees" is a typical Hope quote. "When people ask me why I don't retire and go fishing I have one stock answer that sums it up. Fish don't applaud."

The mission of the World Golf Hall of Fame is to honor golf greats and to give golf fans a destination to learn more about the game and the golfers who have been inducted. Honorees include outstanding golfers from foreign countries along with the famous Americans including President Dwight Eisenhower.

The Hall of Fame admission of $19.50 includes a show at the nearby IMAX Theater and an 18-hole putting course. Personal audio guides, available at the ticket office, are recommended.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.



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