Jerry West to direct Tour’s LA event
Thursday, May 28, 2009
NEW YORK – Basketball great Jerry West is coming out of a retirement to join the PGA Tour.
No, not as a player.
And even though “Mr. Clutch” once shot a 63 at Bel-Air Country Club, his silhouette is not about to become the new PGA Tour logo as it is for the NBA.
West, who spent his entire Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers, was hired Thursday as the executive director of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera. His job will be to help raise the profile and charitable donations of the tour’s event in Los Angeles.
“It’s really about me wanting to help, if I can, to raise the level of interest,” West said. “More importantly, it’s about charity. This city has given me so much support. The only thing I’ve been able to give is my contribution to the Lakers as a player and an executive.
“This is my chance to do something for the community that has been so great to me.”
The tournament is held at Riviera, one of America’s storied golf courses. It attracts one of the strongest fields among regular PGA Tour events, with Phil Mickelson as its two-time defending champion.
But it has lagged far behind other PGA Tour events in raising money for local charities.
West hopes to change that.
He won’t be running day-to-day operations, but instead drumming up support in the country’s second-largest market to get the sprawling city more involved in a PGA Tour event that dates to 1926.
Among his goals is to build up the “L.A. Legends Club,” a group of business and civic leaders who will spread the news about the tournament and what it can do for its main charity, the LA Junior Chamber of Commerce Charity Foundation.
“I hope to be very visible,” he said. “This is about working with people, and if I have a strength, I think I’m pretty good at working with people. If I didn’t want to do this, I wouldn’t.”
His involvement is part of an overall of the Northern Trust Open. The tour is taking over management of the event from the Jaycees, with Mike Bone serving as the general manager.
Tom Pulchinski, the previous tournament director, will continue to be involved through the Jaycees.
West remains a giant among Los Angeles sports figures. He played on the 1972 Lakers team that won an NBA title. He later became a head coach, general manager and executive vice president, and was largely responsible for the Lakers building championship teams in the 1980s and the start of this decade.
He recalled his addiction to golf when he played in his first All-Star Game at age 23, and each player received a free set of golf clubs.
West, who grew up in West Virginia, took them to the Greenbrier and swung as hard as he could. It was there he watched Sam Snead hit balls.
“I was mesmerized by Sam Snead,” West said. “It looked so damn easy. Of course, I found out it wasn’t.”
He mastered it as best he could, however, getting down to a scratch handicap and better, with his career low that 63 at Bel-Air.
Asked if there was any chance the PGA Tour would use him for its logo, West laughed.
“I think Charles Barkley would be better,” he said.