California July Notebook: News from Across the Green

By Tom LaMarre, Contributor

Cresta Verde  Golf ClubCresta Verde Golf Club in Corona is another one of those courses in Southern California that has been touched by the stars.

Henry Fonda and Burt Lancaster helped found the club in 1927, when it was known as Parkridge Country Club and also featured an airstrip and a rifle range. One of the first club members was Clark Gable, and Bing Crosby was a frequent guest.

And get this: matinee idol Randolph Scott is credited with being the course designer.

"Every golf publication we have lists Randolph Scott as the course architect," said Jay Miller, who bought the course in February and has undertaken an ambitious rebuilding plan, reworking parts of at least eight holes. "They built a beautiful A-frame clubhouse. There were some bedrooms upstairs, and from what we can figure, it was a brothel."

Long before Palm Springs and Las Vegas became chic desert retreats created for golf and leisure by the rich and famous, the founders of Cresta Verde had an idea of what could be done by combining destination golf with show business.

They were ahead of their time and it might have worked, except for bad timing.

"Desi Arnaz had a ranch with a hotel and ballroom just down the road," said George Apodaca, general manager at Cresta Verde. "They were going to hook up the golf club and the hotel. It was going to be like a Palm Springs resort, with everything including a huge artificial lake."

"Then the depression hit and it all dried up."

Some of the history is a bit cloudy, but things started to go bad a few years after the club opened when the original majority owner was indicted in an insurance scam.

In 1931, a military school bought the property with the idea of relocating its campus, but for reasons that have apparently been lost in time, it never happened. In 1964, the clubhouse was turned into a mental institution.

"The course stayed open throughout all of this," Miller said. "Even when the clubhouse was used for something else, they brought in a trailer to serve as the pro shop."

Cresta Verde  Golf Club "When we're finished, it will be the best course for the money in Southern California, bar none. I know a good course when I see one because I've played 97 of the top 100 in the United States, including Augusta 11 times."

He will bring a little piece of Augusta to Corona on the 225-yard fourth hole, which will be a replica of No. 12 at Amen Corner.

"The only difference is, the creek will run along the right side of the hole before winding in front of the green," Miller said. "At Augusta, Rae's Creek runs down the left side. Other than that, it will be identical."

The A-frame will remain but the structure will be refurbished with stone and stucco, and expanded from 1,300 square feet to 3,000 square feet.

Miller also will have facilities for his Get a Grip Foundation, a golf and academic program for youngsters in the community.

From there could come some stars of the future.

BARBER CUTS DOWN L.A. CITY FIELD

The Barbers have been the first family of Los Angeles golf for decades.

Surprisingly, when 20-year-old Tommy Barber won the 84th Los Angeles City Men's Championship at Rancho Park Golf Club, he became the first member of his family to hold the city title.

"I don't know why we haven't won it before but it's nice to get the Barber name on the trophy," said Barber, who helped College of the Canyons win the State Junior College Championship this season.

Barber is the grandson of Jerry Barber, who won the 1961 PGA Championship and was PGA Tour Player of the Year that season.

The Barber patriarch was head golf pro at Griffith Park Golf Club, where his grandson shot 65 in the first round at Harding Golf Course and 71 in the second round on Wilson Golf Course.

"This is my Father's Day gift to you, Dad," Tommy Barber told his dad, Tom, now head pro at Griffith Park, after rallying to win after falling behind by two strokes in the final round at Rancho Park.

Barber shot 65-71-71-72, 279, nine-under par, to end the three-year reign of Tim Hogarth of Northridge, who wound up third at 69-69-70-75, 283. Ryan Carter of Whitter finished second at 67-73-70-71, 281.

On the tee of the par-five finishing hole, Barber took a look at the plaque that commemorates the 12 Arnold Palmer made there during the 1961 Los Angeles Open. Palmer hit two balls into the driving range on the right and two into the street on the left trying to reach the green in two.

When a sportswriter asked Palmer how he managed to make 12, Arnie quipped: "I missed a putt for 11."

Barber played three irons to the green and sank a three-foot birdie putt.

Previous winners include David Berganio Jr. in 1989, Duffy Waldorf in 1983, Corey Pavin in 1977, Curtis Sifford in 1965 and Al Geiberger in 1959.

HEINEN STATES HIS CASE

Eddie Heinen, who splits his time between Goleta and Las Vegas, knows the value of sticking to the straight and narrow, especially on the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Heinen kept his ball on the short grass most of the day during his 1-up victory over Jonathan Echols of Fresno in the 36-hole final of the 91st California Amateur Championship.

Heinen took the lead for good with a par three on the fifth hole in the afternoon and was relentless the rest of the way, hitting every fairway and missing only one green after the sixth.

Heinen looked over the list of former champions on the Edward B. Tufts trophy, which includes Ken Venturi, Gene Littler, Mark O'Meara, Duffy Waldorf, John Cook, Johnny Miller and Bobby Clampett.

"I feel privileged to be anywhere near that group of players," said Heinen, a graduate of Brigham Young University. "I still can't believe my name will be on that trophy."

He joined Clampett and Miller as players from BYU to win the title.

MORE THAN GOLF AT HIDDEN VALLEY

Hospitality tents spring up all the time on golf courses when tournaments are being played, but it was a little different during an event in June at Hidden Valley Golf Club in Norco.

Six people were arrested when deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department raided the course during a tournament, where sex-for-sale allegedly took place in tents around the course.

"They were having a private golf tournament," Deputy Lisa McConnell said. "Illegal acts of sex for money were offered during the tournament."

Among those arrested were club managers Darren Bollinger, 28, of Temecula and Jason Wood, 36, of Murrieta. They were charged with pimping and pandering.

"This is very embarrassing," said Henry C. "Chuck" Cox, owner of Hidden Valley Golf Club, who said his employees are innocent. "These are clean-cut guys and I can tell you we have no connection whatsoever with what was going on. Lots of tournaments set up tents where drinks and prizes are handed out. Of course, not prizes like this."

Despite Cox's claims, Riverside Country Sheriff's Dept. officials said Hidden Valley, about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, had been under surveillance for about three weeks.

Hidden Valley has remained open since the incident, but at least one golfer said it might be more difficult to convince his wife to let him out of the house to go to the course.

"Now what am I supposed to say?" he asked. "Hey honey, I'm going to the prostitution club. Give me a break."

CASAGRANDA WINS ON WING AND A PRAYER

Greg Casagranda Greg Casagranda of San Diego has gotten off to a late start but he knows how to finish.

Casagranda, who quit as an assistant pro at Encinitas Ranch Golf Course to try the mini-tours at age 40, birdied the last two holes to win the AT&T Arizona Open at Troon Golf and Country Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Casagranda finished at 67-68-70, 205, 11 under par, one stroke ahead of Jin Park of Fullerton, a graduate of Arizona State who now lives in Scottsdale.

LYFORD WINS CALIFORNIA SENIOR AMATEUR

Ted Lyford of Redlands tried to play it safe and nearly ended up being sorry.

Lyford gave away a four-stroke lead in six holes, including a double bogey on the 16th hole, but birdied the last two holes at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach to win the 11th annual California Senior Amateur Championship after finishing second the last two years.

Lyford finished at 72-67-72, 211, five under par, erasing the tournament record of 214 set by Roly Lamontagne of Stockton last year.

Kemp Richardson of Laguna Niguel, who won the U.S. Senior Amateur and the British Senior Amateur last year, was second at 73-73-67, 213.

SOCAL GOLF ICON SMITH PASSES AWAY

Howard Smith, four-time Southern California PGA Golf Professional of the Year and three-time SCPGA president, died at the age of 74 in Corona after a lengthy illness.

Smith was a 50-year member of the PGA of America and was inducted into the SCPGA Hall of Fame in 1991. He was on the SCPGA's Board of Directors for more than 30 years.

Smith was longtime Director of Golf Operations at Green River Golf Club in Corona and also served at Riverside Golf Course, which he helped design.

Tom LaMarre, Contributor

Tom LaMarre has been a sportswriter and copy editor in California for parts of five decades, including 15 years with the Oakland Tribune and 22 with the Los Angeles Times.


Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment