Golfing with Chi Chi

I am not a golfer by any means. To say my drives are short would not be an exaggeration.
One time I attended a celebrity golf tournament and my golf game was so bad it became the topic for the comedian who entertained us that evening at dinner. How he made it into a 20-minute monologue I will never know. I have stood on the links with stars from Michael Jordan to Charlie Daniels.
No matter how poorly I play, giving time to help various causes such as Ronald McDonald House and other great programs has given me the opportunity to meet and play with some of the elite of the golf world.
One of my first celebrity golf tournaments was the Rose Classic in Shreveport, La.
I was scared to death. I went out and practiced and practiced so I could at least not look ridiculous when the local NBC affiliate cameras rolled to carry my tee off.
I stepped to the tee, addressed the ball: “Hello, ball,” and delivered the swing in perfect form to carry the ball around 40 feet down the fairway.
While it was not a great beginning, at least I did not hit any of the innocent bystanders watching the event.
Luckily, I joined a gracious foursome including the owners of a major mid-western radio syndicate. They took my deficiencies in account and we had a terrific day together.
The highlight of the event was spending time with the charismatic Chi Chi Rodriguez.
It turned out that Chi Chi was a huge fan of “In the Heat of the Night” and especially Alan Autry’s “Bubba” character.
Chi Chi has won eight times on the PGA tour and had logged 22 Senior tour victories.
As a child he carried water through the hot, dusty sugarcane fields of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. There he toiled with his father who was tending the cane.
I was asked to join with Chi Chi when we went out to do his special golf clinic for inner city children in the community. Of course, all I had to do was help talk with the youths and give them some encouragement. I was a fine example of how not to be a golfer when put up against Chi Chi and his flamboyant approach.
He has truly given his heart and talents to make a positive impact through his Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation based in Clearwater, Fla. Its mission is simple: to give kids a chance. Visit
“I figure kids are the future,” Chi Chi said. “If I made it, anybody can do it. I think I can be a good role model for them because they can look at me and say, ‘Look, he’s a small guy, very poor, and he worked hard and made it.’ If I can help one kid become successful, that’s all I ask for.”
Chi Chi got up close and personal with the children of Shreveport, encouraging their interest in golf. He imparted to them his strong beliefs about how things should be in society. I remember him asking one of the children to remove an earring, telling him, “real men do not wear earrings.”
Using his club as a sword he swash buckled the children with his unique ability to craft golf balls to his will and mesmerized the youths with his performance. Like a magician, he was able to amaze and delight with his sleight of hand.
Although it has been nearly 29 years since I met him, each time I look at my golf clubs, I think: “I got to hit the ball around with a World Golf Hall of Famer who won eight PGA Tours. Wow, isn’t life amazing?”
For those of you hitting the links this week, may each drive go the distance, may each putt be steady and sure, but most of all may you all have fun. Above everything else, I think that is what Chi Chi brought to the game of golf. He took it and made playing it more than fundamentals, more than technique; he made it fun.