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Yogi Talks about Golf


Yogi Berra is the 2010 host of the Bob Hope Classic, which will be played January 18-24 in the Palm Springs area. In preparation for this year's tournament the Yankee catcher and Hall-of-Famer met with reporters during a teleconference to discuss his role as the "Tournament Classic Ambassador." Also on hand was tournament chairman John Foster.

As usual, Berra, 84, turned the discussion into a laugh-filled event with his nonpareil "Yogi-isms."

MODERATOR: Thanks for being with us for the conference call related to the 51st Bob Hope Classic, which is coming up January 18th to the 24th. We have with us today John Foster, the president and tournament chairman of the Bob Hope Classic, and Yogi Berra, Hall of Famer, our tournament host.

I'd like to begin the call with a couple of housekeeping notes, and then I'll ask a couple of questions of John and Yogi, then we'll open it up to questions from the media. We hope to do a conference call with Rickie Fowler, one of the candidates for Rookie-of-the-Year on the PGA Tour in 2010, and we hope to do that next Tuesday. As soon as we know for certain, we'll issue a media alert so you'll have the information.

Lastly, if you have not applied for a tournament credential as yet, please do so as soon as possible because we are processing those. John, first of all, let me ask a couple questions of you. Can you give a little bit of the background on Yogi's selection for the role of Tournament Classic Ambassador?

JOHN FOSTER: Sure. You know, Yogi has been coming to the tournament I think almost 15 years now. It's always been a treat. You know, from day one he has been a guy who comes up and asks us what he can do. He comes to all the events. He helps with all the entertainment of the amateurs. That's the lifeblood of our tournament, the amateurs that play in our tournament. Yogi has been one for a long time. He's been such a good help in every way. As we all know, there can't be a nicer man in the world. We had a wonderful experience. We started thinking about, How do we thank someone like Yogi? We came up with the 'Classic Ambassador' because that's what he's been. He's been such a great supporter that we wanted to say thanks. This whole community wants to thank him, and the whole tournament certainly does. We're hoping to have a great time. We're going to get him out of the cold because we know he's shivering.

MODERATOR: Talk about some of the duties and activities that Yogi will be involved with during tournament week.

JOHN FOSTER: Basically he's going to be greeting all the amateurs and the celebrities and the pros, doing what only he can do best, and that's just coming up with a big grin, welcoming them to the tournament and hoping they have a good time. That's what Yogi has always done throughout his life. We're just proud to have him as a great associate and our first ambassador.

MODERATOR: Thanks, John. Yogi, let me ask a couple questions of you. Can you give us your thoughts on being the first Classic Ambassador for the Bob Hope Classic.

YOGI BERRA: What can I say? Very excited about it.

MODERATOR: Talk a bit about how you got started in playing golf. Obviously a tremendous baseball career. When and how did you first take up the game?

YOGI BERRA: I think when I started to play baseball, that's when I started to play golf. I used to play left-handed, but I switched to right-handed because I sliced the ball left-handed too much. Right-handed I hit it pretty straight - not far, but pretty straight (laughter). At spring training, we never were allowed to play golf during the season. I know that. We weren't allowed to play. We got a chance when we got an off day maybe sometimes to go out and play golf. I did most of my golf when the season was over. I enjoyed going to Bob Hope. I've been going there for 15 years and I love it. It gets you out of the cold weather, you meet a lot of nice people. Bob was a tremendous man. He did a lot for charity. That's what I like.

MODERATOR: You talked a bit about Bob Hope. I don't know if you ever had a chance to play golf with him, but you had an opportunity to meet with him.

YOGI BERRA: I played with him the first day. Played with the president. We went off on the 1st hole, played a few holes. He was a pretty good golfer, too. Not too bad. The main thing I liked about him, he does a lot for charity. That's what I like.

MODERATOR: At this time we'll open it up to questions from the media.

Q. Mr. Berra, do you remember how you first came to the tournament 15 years ago?

YOGI BERRA: Well, I got invited to it. It was a good chance to get out of the cold. I always liked Bob Hope anyhow. The Cleveland Indians, he was on the board of the Cleveland Indians. I met him through there a lot. I saw him. Then when I got in the tournament, I got to know him real well. He's a great man. I'm glad they picked me. I'm real happy and excited about it.

Q. You mentioned that you played with Mr. Hope. Any other celebrities through the year that you played with that you specifically remember?

YOGI BERRA: All the pros you play with, it's terrific. Played with a lot of good pros. It's a good tournament. A good four-day tournament. I wish I could play the whole four days, but I don't think I could make it now (laughter).

Q. Are you going to play at all this year?

YOGI BERRA: I don't know. If they give me a chance... I don't know what I'm going to do. I can hit that first ball, I know that (laughter).

MODERATOR: May have to put you in the role of pinch hitter.

Q. Mr. Berra, I've always been told there's a great similarity between playing baseball and playing golf in terms of hitting the ball.

YOGI BERRA: That don't bother me any (laughter).

Q. Do you see the similarity or is it completely different?

YOGI BERRA: No, you got a lot of good golfers in ball players. They didn't do too bad. I enjoyed it. It's a good exercise and everything, golf. Played in a lot of charity golf tournaments and everything. It was really fun for me. I enjoyed when the season was over that I got to play golf and everything. I do a lot of charity things over here, too, in Jersey. I play almost every Monday some tournament.

Q. I've been told that Mickey Mantle was a tremendously powerful golfer.

YOGI BERRA: Good golfer. He could hit the heck out of the ball.

Q. Any of those other guys that you recall were good golfers?

YOGI BERRA: Whitey Ford was a good golfer. There were a few guys. Harvey Reynolds was a good golfer. Pitchers usually make good golfers. They're very good golfers.

Q. Why do you think that is?

YOGI BERRA: I don't know why, but they do. Played with Freddy Hutchinson. Pitched for Detroit. Got mad sometimes, but he could play golf. A lot of these guys could play golf. Reynolds could play real good. Whitey could play good. You mentioned Mickey. Mickey was very good. He could hit the heck out of the ball. Used to hold it like a baseball bat when he hit the ball.

Q. Wondering if you have a favorite memory from the last 15 years at the Hope?

YOGI BERRA: All of them were good memories.

Q. Any one in particular?

YOGI BERRA: One year, I forget the year it was, but I played with Tom Kite. Almost won it. I think we came in second. We came close. Didn't help too much. You got to have a hot pro, I think (laughter). That helps.

Q. I know you're a golf fan. Do you have any thoughts on Rickie Fowler, the up-and-coming player that is going to play this year? Have you heard much about him?

YOGI BERRA: No, not that much about him. That isn't Arnold's grandson, is it?

Q. No.

YOGI BERRA: I see where he's playing. I'd like to see him. These young kids today can hit the heck out of that ball. I like to see the young kids come around like that.

Q. Mr. Foster, what do you think Rickie's presence at the tournament will do for the tournament?

JOHN FOSTER: Well, he's a Southern California kid. Obviously we like to see the Southern California kids. We gave him a sponsor exemption because he wasn't going to quite make it in off his Q School number. There's a number of good players coming in. Jamie Lovemark is another young Southern California kid. Obviously we like to help them get in. What Rickie did in the last fall and summer when he did come out was pretty special. You know, you have to have a certain mental makeup to be a good golfer.

Once you play with these young pros, you see they all hit the ball so well. But there's a separation. And Rickie looks like he's got winning in his blood. He's been a top amateur for about three years. So he's an amazing talent. We're excited to have him. I mean, he's going to be fun to watch 'cause he's not a big guy but, as all these younger players, they hit the ball a long way. He has a wonderful short game. He has all the talent in the world. I think anybody in golf is excited to see these young kids come onto the scene because they bring a lot to the tournament.

Q. Yogi, all those crazy quotes attributed to you over the years, how many of those did you actually say and how many of those were made up?

YOGI BERRA: Quite a few of 'em. A lot of 'em. The funny part about it, I don't even know I say 'em. That's the funny part about it. There's a few I could tell you. It ain't over till it's over. Come to the fork in the road, take it. Many of them. It ain't over till it's over. I got a lot of 'em. My kids tell me when I go to my museum here in Jersey, they say, Dad, you said another one. I don't even know what I said. Funny, too. I go to an airport. A lot of people look at me, they say, Boy, you look just like Yogi Berra. I say, Yeah, a lot of people tell me that (laughter). But I really don't know I say them, I really don't.

Q. Some of those are made up by sportswriters?

YOGI BERRA: I don't know. I don't know too much. They're mostly mine, they really are true, all of them.

Q. Mostly on purpose or messing around?

YOGI BERRA: No, it just comes out. I don't try to be a comedian or anything. That's the way it is. That's how I do it.

Q. Yogi, tell us some more about your game. Do you have a regular foursome?

YOGI BERRA: I belong to Montclair Country Club. We got 36 holes. I try to play two days in a row, then I got to rest two days. My back is starting to bother me a little bit now. I just can't make the four anymore. I enjoy playing golf. I enjoy playing golf. I still play. Heck, yeah.

Q. What was your best handicap?

YOGI BERRA: My best handicap was 10. For me it's all right.

Q. Did you ever make a hole-in-one?

YOGI BERRA: Only at my tournament, and it didn't count (laughter). I've come close. I've had an eagle, but no hole-in-one. The only hole-in-one, as I said, was at my golf tournament I do for the museum.

Q. Yogi, I want to switch gears just a little bit. During last year's U.S. Open at Bethpage, I had the opportunity to go to the new Yankee Stadium. I'd like to know what you think about the new stadium.

YOGI BERRA: Great. Beautiful park. The stadium is wonderful. I get to sit in George's box. That's what makes it wonderful, too. It is beautiful. It is a beautiful ballpark. It's a good hitting park, too.

Q. What about when you look at the old stadium?

YOGI BERRA: That was the only stadium I played in. That was the old one. That was a pretty good stadium, too. Had some long ones. You had to hit them down the line. Joe DiMaggio would kick his leg when he hit some balls out there, 407.

Q. Did you ever go on one of Bob Hope's tours to entertain the troops?

YOGI BERRA: I never did get the chance. I never did get the chance. I know he does a tremendous job. Going to have all the troops over there now that's going to be at the golf tournament there when I'm there. No, he did tremendous things, boy. Bob Hope was one helluva guy, I'll tell you. When Mickey Mantle passed away, he was going to his funeral.

Q. Yogi, you actually started playing golf when you were in your rookie year in baseball?

YOGI BERRA: Yeah, right then. I played with Joe Medley. I played with Stan Musial. They used to belong to a club called Sunset. I never was a member. I was just starting to learn how to play. Did a lot of golfing. I kind of enjoyed it. It's fun. You meet a lot of good people, like I did at the Bob Hope. Met a lot of great people there. Especially Bob Hope and his wife Dolores, she's a great lady.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.

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