By John Strege
Obituaries of actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who died on Friday, said only that he enjoyed playing golf, which does not do justice to his love for the the game.
Zimbalist, who starred in the hit television shows “77 Sunset Strip” and “The FBI,” was an avid golfer, one who was still playing three days a week, according to one report.
He was formerly a member at Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank, Calif., home to a coterie of those from the entertainment business, including Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. It was at Lakeside that Zimbalist got to know Crosby. Zimbalist played in the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, now the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, 17 times.
He also was a regular in a variety of other professional tour pro-ams, including the Bob Hope Desert Classic and the Nabisco Dinah Shore.
An unidentified “veteran professional” in a 1978 Sports Illustrated story gave this brief scouting report on Zimbalist, said to carry a 12 handicap: “Nice guy, takes a lot of lessons.”
Among those from whom he took lessons was Joe Norwood, long-time head pro at the Los Angeles Country Club.
One episode of “The FBI,” entitled “A Gathering of Sharks,” was largely shot on location at Monterey Peninsula golf courses, according to AllMovie.com. “One suspects that this episode was a case of combining business with pleasure for F.B.I star Efrem Zimbalist Jr.,” the website synopsis noted. “On assignment for the FBI, Inspector Lew Erskine (Zimbalist) grabs his clubs and heads to an expensive golf course. The purpose: to trap a group of affluent thieves who have stolen a diamond worth $300,000.”
In his memoir, “My Dinner of Herbs,” Zimbalist Jr. noted his golf addiction in a tribute to his mother’s closest friends. “They all live in my memory but, as a duffer, I should pay homage to Jim and Frances Whigham, she the daughter of Charles Blair Macdonald, patriarch of American golf. In 1895 Macdonald had been the most influential member of the newly formed United States Golf Association, and at the age of forty, had won the first Amateur Championship sponsored by the organization.”
Golf lost a friend in Zimbalist. He was 95.