Friday, February 22, 2008

Sinatra event is all about stars, not sports

Celebrity golf comes in several different forms.

There is what happens each year at tournaments like the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic hosted by George Lopez, where the celebrities play side-by-side with the PGA Tour pros.

Then there are events like the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where the celebrities show up for pro-am rounds, but once the professional tournament begins, the amateurs head to the sidelines.

And then there are tournaments like the Frank Sinatra Countrywide Celebrity Invitational, being played today and Saturday at Indian Wells Country Club. In the Sinatra, there are no pros, meaning the celebrities are the appeal of the tournaments.

Now in its 20th year, the Sinatra tournament has been unabashedly about star power and not about golf. Sure, the people playing in the tournament are trying to play their best to win the event's prizes. But few if any of the fans who will walk around the two Indian Wells courses the next two days will care if the team they are watching makes a birdie, a par or a triple bogey on a given hole.

What they will care about is the caliber of the celebrity in the group.

Crowd pleasers

Sure, fans can watch the celebrities at events like the Hope and the Kraft tournaments, but at the Sinatra the celebrities are free - even encouraged - to sign autographs and pose for pictures during the round. Part of that is because the pace of play is slower at the Sinatra, so there is a little more down time between holes for the celebrities and the amateur partners.

But part of the signing and the posing is the basic philosophy of the tournament. That philosophy is to be as fan-friendly and laid-back and comfortable as possible in an effort to attract a larger gallery to the tournament. That, in turn, will help to raise more money for the primary charity served by the tournament, to benefit the nonprofit Barbara Sinatra Children's Center at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage.

The celebrities in the tournament also have been consistent, many playing from the days when Frank Sinatra was still involved in the tournament or who might have a personal connection to Ol' Blue Eyes. Names like Joe Mantegna, Pat Boone, Tom Dreesen, Chad Everett and Robert Wagner have become as much a part of the tournament as the Sinatra name. And the tournament is full of former athletes, like Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, Ann Myers-Drysdale and Steve Garvey, among others.

Those celebrities and more than 40 others will be roaming Indian Wells Country Club the next two days in a celebrity golf tournament that really is about the celebrities and not really about the golf.

No comments: