Clinton holds court in La Quinta



LA QUINTA – Former President Bill Clinton, whose foundation is a sponsor and charity recipient of the Humana Challenge, entertained the media shortly after the first round of the 2013 tournament got underway at three desert courses.

A sampling of Clinton’s wit and wisdom during a Q&A in the media room at the Palmer Private Course at PGA West:

• On the political lesson he learned from then-Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson during the team’s visit to the White House during Clinton’s first term: “I will never forget it. He said, ‘Let me see your grip’ and puts a driver in my hands. He said, ‘First, it’s too tight. All average golfers grip the club too hard.’ . . . .

“He said, ‘Golf is the way politics is. If your grip (on the club) is too far to the right, you’re going to get in trouble on the left. But if your grip is too far to the left, you’re going to get in big trouble on the right.’ ”

After the laughter died down, Clinton said, “The trick is for your grip to be just right. Worth remembering these days.”

•  Jokingly asked his stance on the proposed ban of the long putter: “I actually am one of those guys that ought to benefit from it, because I have a condition that sometimes you get with aging. You may have noticed that my hand has a little tremor when I’m tired, and a lot of people do what they’re older . . . But I’ve never been able to figure out how to use one of those things (long putters). So I don’t care.”

Again, when the laughter subsided, he apologized to those who use unconventional putters anchored to their body, saying, “And for those that love it and do it, I’m sorry, but I can’t weigh in because I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion.”

Once a politician, always a politician.

•  Asked if his presence on the driving range intimidates some of the tour pros: “They might have been (intimidated) last year, but when they saw how lousy I was on the golf course, I think they got over it in a hurry.”

•  On a discussion about vegan diets he had with local boxer Timothy Bradley, who recently defeated Manny Paquiao, during a pre-tournament function: “I met him and said, ‘How’s your vegan diet going?’ And he said, “How did you know? How are you doing (on yours)?’ “

Clinton said he told Bradley that as someone over age 60 he lost a lot of muscle mass on the diet and needed “ to work out like crazy” just to maintain what he had, and that he was concerned about losing iron in his blood.

“And so I said (to Bradley), ‘Do you take B 12 shots? My doctor tells me to.’ He says, ‘Yeah, I take them two or three times a week when I got a fight coming up.’ But he said you need it, so we had this long talk.”

•  Asked if he was going to bring President Obama out to the Humana Challenge next year, since Obama apparently owes him a favor for his campaign endorsement: “Listen, I would be doing him a favor if I brought him here next year. He has become a total golf nut. . . . We played 13 holes at Andrews Air Force Base (recently). He had the lowest score by far he had ever shot at Andrews, and he was five shots ahead of me after nine holes.

“But I’m older and I start slow and pick up. So I picked up four of those strokes in the first three holes of the back nine. So I’m only 1 down, and he leaves at (No. 13) and he says, ‘I gotta go.’ I said, ‘Hey, you’re talking to somebody that’s had this job and made that excuse.’ ”

More laughter. Apparently, when you’re president, it’s all right to quit when you’re ahead.

•  Clinton also attended the ceremonial first tee shots hit by golf legends Billy Casper and Gary Player before the tournament started.

When Player did his imitation of Elvis Presley swiveling his hips during a tee shot, Clinton said, “Did you know that during Elvis’ first appearance on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ that they only showed him from the waist up?”

The King’s gyrations apparently were deemed too suggestive to show on TV early on.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem accompanied Clinton to the interview room and publicly thanked Humana and Clinton for their roles in revitalizing the tournament formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic.

Randy Youngman has been writing about golf in California, at the professional and amateur levels, for more than 20 years. He is also an admitted golfaholic.

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