As it celebrates 50 years on the PGA Tour, this course only trails a few for longevity (like Augusta National and Pebble Beach)
Charlie Sifford made a lot of history on the PGA Tour, but Sifford also made at least some history in the desert PGA Tour event, The American Express.
On January 29, 1964, a new course debuted in the tournament, known then as the Palm Springs Golf Classic. The Country Club of La Quinta was considered perhaps the toughest course in the tournament’s five-day, four-course format which was still a year away from adding Bob Hope’s name to the title.
La Quinta’s narrow fairways and small greens might have been tough, but it wasn’t too daunting that day for Sifford, who had joined the PGA Tour in 1961 as the first African-American golfer on the Tour after all-Caucasian clause for Tour membership. had been thrown away. In the first round of the 1964 tournament, Sifford shot a 6-under 66, setting the course’s competition record and tying for first place after 18 holes with Tommy Jacobs, who had played Bermuda Dunes Country Club that day- the.
Sifford ultimately finished tied for seventh in the tournament – Jacobs won in the playoffs at host Eldorado Country Club – but his place in tournament history was assured. As La Quinta Country Club celebrates its 50th participation in the American Express this year, it may have gone from being one of the toughest golf courses in the tournament to one of the easiest courses on the circuit. But its history in events is just as sure.
The American Express’ 50th performance at La Quinta sets a record for most years played in the event, breaking a tie with Bermuda Dunes Country Club. That record could have been set in 2021, but La Quinta was taken off the land for a year under COVID-19 pandemic protocols.
La Quinta Country Club has not hosted the tournament since 1983, and for a few years it was on rotation with Tamarisk Country Club. But with 50 years in the tournament, La Quinta has been surpassed in years played on the PGA Tour by only a handful of courses with names like Augusta National and Pebble Beach.
“I always enjoy playing La Quinta Country Club because it’s a great and fun course to play on this rotation,” tournament host and two-time American Express winner Phil Mickelson said of last year. from the perspective that the course is not in the 2021 event. .
“We will miss La Quinta Country Club,” Kevin Na said at the time. “It’s a great golf course, fantastic greens every year. We will miss it. »
Mickelson and Na show the reason why La Quinta is still in the event for the 50th time. PGA Tour players enjoy the old-school nature of the course, which opened in 1959. The layout, designed by Lawrence Hughes and capable of playing just over 7,000 yards for the tournament, hasn’t changed much since its tournament debut in 1964, even with a renovation in the late 1990s.
The course still sports narrow fairways, accessible par 5s, challenging par 3s, and houses and palm trees to the left and right of most holes in a throwback feel to the nascent days of desert golf in the 1950s. The course offers a pair of scoring par 5s on the fifth and sixth holes, but danger on demanding par 4s like the tricky 14, one of the toughest holes in the tournament.
Being in the tournament is still important to the club and its members, even if it takes members off the course for a week to 10 days in January, the course’s head pro said.
“On the other hand, the new members that have joined in the time I’ve been here, let’s say the last three to seven years, it’s important to them that this tournament is here,” said Chris Gilley. “You walk down our halls, this is our club, what used to be the Bob Hope and is now the America Express. It’s our history. It’s our tradition. It’s part of what separates us from the clubs similar valleys.
La Quinta Resort
Always part of the event
Being still in the tournament is just as important, Gilley said. While other 1950s courses left the American Express rotation, courses like Indian Wells, Tamarisk, Thunderbird and Eldorado country clubs, La Quinta had been part of the event for 11 consecutive years before joining withdraw because of the pandemic last year.
“Always” is a key word when selling our club to our guests or potential members. We still host the American Express, formerly the Bob Hope. It resonates with people as they walk through our doors,” Gilley said.
While La Quinta has only hosted the American Express four times, meaning it has been played during the four-day pro-am and then the pro-only Sunday round, the course has a history of winners. eclectic.
In 1967, the first year the course hosted the tournament, a part-time touring professional and full-time club professional named Tom Nieporte edged out Doug Sanders by one shot for the win. In 1970, Bruce Devlin surged on the last lap to beat Larry Ziegler by four strokes. Rik Massengale set a tournament record of 23 under par winning at La Quinta in 1977, and Keith Fergus edged Rex Caldwell in the playoffs in 1983, the last year La Quinta hosted the event.
La Quinta’s other claim in tournament history came in 2017, when Adam Hadwin shot a 13-under 59 on the course in the third round, tying the tournament low round shot by David Duval in 1999 at the Palmer PGA West race. Hadwin then finished second in 2017 ahead of Hudson Swafford.
Returning to La Quinta Country Club this week means the American Express is once again paying homage not only to La Quinta, but also to the courses that helped make the desert famous. And La Quinta is once again showing that it can stand up to the best players in the world.