President to president, father to son, just three words “I love you” were the last words George H. W. Bush, our 41st president, said before gently passing away at age 94 last Friday, November 30. No doubt the president was speaking not only to his son, President George W. Bush, but also to his extensive, loving family and to the American people.
President Bush had a remarkable life. He was a decorated war hero and was the youngest Naval fighter pilot in WWII. After his tour of duty, he enrolled at Yale, finished in three years with a degree in economics. A gifted first baseman, was the captain of the Yale baseball team in 1947. After establishing a successful oil business, Bush began his love affair with public service and politics. From 1981 to 1989 he served our country as vice president under President Ronald Reagan and then in 1989, he was elected to the presidency.
Not only has the world lost a great man, but the world of golf has lost someone who truly loved the sport. It’s easy to understand President Bush’s love of golf as he was introduced to the game at an early age. He was the son of Dorothy and George Walker Bush, who was a
former president of the United States Golf Association and who created the Walker Cup Matches, a prestigious biennial competition pitting the best amateur golfers from the USA against the best from Great Britain and Ireland. By the way, National Golf Links, one of the finest golf courses in the world, played host to the first Walker Cup Matches in 1922.
One of the biggest problems facing golf, in general, is the issue of slow play. No one ever accused President Bush of playing slow. President Bush was proud that his rounds generally were completed in two and a half hours or less.
I had the privilege and honor to interview “41” on three different occasions with the first being at the Bob Hope Desert Classic. It was a history-making foursome that day as past Presidents Ford, Clinton, and Bush all played with Bob Hope and it was the only time that three U.S. presidents had ever played together. President Bush had more talent than anybody in the group, and it was quite a thrill to speak with Bob Hope and President Bush after the round. A lot of our conversation was directed at President Ford, whose tee shots found the
galleries more often than the fairway.
I also had the pleasure of speaking with President Bush at the 1998 Presidents Cup in Australia. However, the opportunity to be with President Bush on the first tee at the 2005 Presidents Cup in Virginia was my most memorable moment and truly revealed the humble nature of this incredible man.
The captain for the international side for this Presidents Cup was Gary Player and for the U.S., Jack Nicklaus. The honorary chairman was, you guessed it, former President George Bush. Let me set the scene for you. It was opening day, and I was broadcasting the action for PGA TOUR Radio on Sirius XM. On that first tee, there was a collection of very famous people and one not-so-famous person, myself. Both captains, Nicklaus and Player, were standing alongside Tim Finchem, commissioner of the PGA Tour at that time, and former President Bill Clinton.
As the players got ready to tee off, alongside me was former President Bush. Here I was just inches away from a war hero, a former captain of his Yale baseball team and a former vice president and president of the United States. As we all waited patiently for the Presidents Cup Matches to begin, I suddenly felt a little nudge in my side from President Bush. We both leaned a little closer to each other, and he whispered to me saying, “Isn’t this a name droppers paradise?” We both shared a good chuckle.
The 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, is being laid to rest this week. He was a great man before he became president and a great man after he left office. So, to honor President George H.W. Bush, the next time you play golf, play a little faster — it will be good for the game and you’ll make a great man smile.