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BOB WEST ON GOLF: Celebrities helping National Football Foundation kick off at Zaharias

Roughly two months shy of the 41st anniversary of the Bob Hope/Bum Phillips Celebrity Golf Tournament in Port Arthur that arguably brought together more big names than any similar event in Texas, another significant celebrity event is in the works for Babe Zaharias.

And once again Bum will be a focal point.

Although there is no official name for the tournament yet — some version of Bum Phillips Memorial is probable — several big names are already committed.

Big like former Houston Oilers QB Dan Pastorini and NFL Hall of Famers Robert Brazile and Ken Houston. Big like College Football Hall of Famers Little Joe Washington, Jerry LeVias, Don Trull, Johnny Roland and Mike Renfro.

A minimum of 25 former football stars and perhaps a legendary baseball name or two are expected to participate in what will be a fundraiser for a Golden Triangle Chapter of the National Football Foundation. The proposed chapter is roughly 50 percent of the way to the 50 members required for certification.

For those who may have missed Port Arthur News sports editor I.C. Murrell’s detailed story about the NFF in the paper’s weekend edition, the nutshell version is that it’s devoted to the promotion of amateur football, oversees the College Football HOF in Atlanta and provides scholarships for scholar athletes.

Archie Manning is the organization’s current president.

Founders of the Golden Triangle Chapter plan a modest launch with two $1,000 scholarships and an annual Bum Phillips area Coach of the Year Award. Balfour, thanks to Port Neches-Groves alum Lee Briggs, has agreed to present a specially designed ring to the winning coach.

Hopefully, Bum’s son Wade will be free of NFL obligations and can present the ring and participate in the celebrity tournament.

Bert Brocker, owner of Mid-County Dodge, has been front and center in the push for a Golden Triangle NFF chapter. So has Houstonian Rob Lynch.

Both are members of the Houston chapter and are convinced the Golden Triangle, with its storied history of big time football talent, is more than qualified to lay claim to Texas’ sixth NFF chapter.

The golf tournament at Zaharias will pair three amateurs with a celebrity and is expected to become the annual major fundraiser for the Golden Triangle Chapter. Tentative plans call for the two scholarships and Bum Phillips ring to be presented at Mid-County Dodge, then for the Museum of the Gulf Coast to host a pre-tournament party on Friday night, April 3.
How cool will it be for Little Joe and any other participating local stars
enshrined at the museum to have peers see them on display in the sports
legends gallery?

Nobody expects the NFF golf tournament to rival the Bob Hope/Bum Phillips bash of 41 years ago for several reasons, starting with the fact it might never again be possible to assemble that many big names in one place for a celebrity tourney. Those who participated and watched in 1979 still marvel at the starpower assembled in Port Arthur to benefit what was then Hughen School.

So let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.

For openers, the tournament was so big, it required both Babe Zaharias and Port Arthur Country Club to handle the sheer numbers of celebrity-headed teams. Half the field played Zaharias on a Saturday and PACC on Sunday or vice versa. Fans and autograph seekers turned out by the hundreds at both sites.

Beyond Hope and Phillips, the tourney featured star NFL QBs like Pastorini, Terry Bradshaw, Ken Stabler, Danny White, Bert Jones and Jim Zorn. The coaching fraternity was represented by the likes of Darrell Royal, R.C. Slocum, John David Crow, Rudy Tomjanovich, Del Harris and Tom Flores.

Those who wanted the signature of great running backs could pick from among Port Arthur’s Joe Washington, Tony Dorsett, Greg Pruitt and Chuck Muncie. For receivers, you had another hometown hero, Duriel Harris, Billy Joe Dupree, Nat Moore, Kenny Burrough, Drew Pearson and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.

Golf legends Jimmy Demaret and Doug Sanders showed up. So did PA great Marty Fleckman. Then you had astronaut Alan Shepard and singer Charlie Pride taking their swings. And many, many more. Entertainers included B.J. Thomas, Dottie West, Floyd Kramer, Tanya Tucker and Mel Tillis.

It was just plain nuts, it was testimony to the drawing power of Bob Hope and Bum and it all took place one unforgettable weekend in Port Arthur.
There would be sequels but nothing could match the original.

Coming up: Bob West’s Chip Shots