Tip from Las Vegas pro helped late President Bush’s bunker play

Updated December 12, 2018 - 8:33 am

On Oct. 2, 1993, George H.W. Bush was about to hit a shot out of a Spanish Trail Country Club bunker when his playing partner, head pro Jerry Roberts, gave him a tip.

“I told him, ‘Turn the club in your hands to about 2 o’clock, which will open your club face, then open your stance, aim a little left and swing through to the target,’” remembered Roberts about the advice he gave Bush, the 41st president of the United States, who died Nov. 30.

Following that round, Roberts, now Spanish Trail pro emeritus and a Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame inductee, received a thank-you note.

“You really helped me with that shot,” Bush wrote.

The round came about nine months after Bush left office and Roberts was a replacement for Bush adviser and original Spanish Trail member Sig Rogich, who had an injured shoulder.

Filling out the fivesome were Gil Cohen, Gary Primm and Gordon Sarret.

“It was pretty intimidating because the Secret Service showed up in the days ahead of the round and used my office as the command center,” Roberts said. “They were very nice, but they also had vests on and (handguns) strapped to their hips so that was a reality check.”

During the round, which was kept as much a secret as possible until Bush arrived carrying his own clubs, Roberts had assistant pro John Ramsey ride ahead and alert members that the president was playing through.

“The members were very accommodating and President Bush stopped and shook hands, talked to each of them and signed scorecards,” Roberts said. “He couldn’t have been nicer and more hospitable.

“When you play golf with someone, you get a pretty good idea about what a person is like and where they stand. He was a total gentleman and I was very impressed. He had a relaxed, presidential attitude and was all character.”

The USGA labeled Bush as the “most authentic” golfing president because the game runs deep within the Bush family.

Bush was a World Golf Hall of Fame member and his grandfather, George Herbert Walker, and father, Prescott, both served as USGA presidents.

“He plays fast, but he also played true golf with no presidential gimmes or mulligans,” Roberts said about the three-hour round. “He played everything and his final score of 90 was totally legit.

“On the 16th green, he had about a 6-foot par putt and said with a smile, ‘You know, Jerry, when I was in the White House, these were always good.’ But he went ahead and putted, and made it.”

Bush also smiled when he met Roberts’ wife, Barb.

“Oh yeah, I have one of those at home, too,” Bush quipped, alluding to his wife of the same name.

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The golf notebook appears Wednesdays. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider.

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