October Southern California Notebook

By Tom LaMarre, Contributor

Tycoon Donald Trump has purchased Ocean Trails Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, which made news during construction in 1999 when the 18th hole slid into the Pacific Ocean.

The billionaire purchased the property from Credit Suisse First Boston, which took control of the $150 million development project in April when owners Bob and Ken Zuckerman ran out of money trying to complete construction.

"This is more than a money-making venture," Trump said. "The course has a chance, if properly done, to rival Pebble Beach. With imagination and money, of which I have both, this could be the finest golf course anywhere in the country. It's not a big deal for me, it's a small deal, but it's a beautiful deal. This site has been under siege for years with all the problems with the banks and the fighting. This site hasn't had the loving care it needs."

Repairs to the last three holes of the course could be completed by November and the holes might be ready for play next June. The 16th and 17th holes were used by heavy equipment and to stockpile material during reconstruction of the finishing hole.

Destination Resorts, which is planning to build the $200 million Long Pont Resort down the street, had secured a deal to operate Ocean Trails with an option to buy before Credit Suisse First Boston sold it to Trump.

There has been no comment from Destination Resorts on the Trump deal.

"The city can't be a loser," said Les Evans, Rancho Palos Verde's city manager, noting that the city now has two developers with a reputation for building world-class resorts. "I believe the two of them will come together. Destination Resorts has said to us the hotel needs the golf course and the golf course needs the hotel."

Numerous lawsuits were filed and created a feud between the Zuckermans over how to deal with the property, which had been in their family for years.

The 260-acre property features a 15-hole golf course designed by Pete Dye that opened in November 2000, 75 empty home lots and a clubhouse with three restaurants.

"I own plenty of hotels, I don't need another one," Trump said, adding that he hopes a deal can be worked out with Destination Resorts for use of the golf course by hotel guests. "I would love to see the hotel happen. I think it would be very good for me and for Ocean Trails. If I was doing this for the money, I wouldn't do it. It will be the best course in California when I finish it and then I'll worry about the housing."

Trump has a track record in golf, and not just as a low-handicap player.

He bought a rundown, bankrupt golf property in Briarcliff Manor, NY, for $6 million in 1996 and poured more than $30 million into it. The Trump National Golf Club, which features a waterfall 100 feet high and 150 feet wide, opened this summer to rave reviews.

Rebuilding Job in Ventura

The City of Ventura, facing competition from several golf courses built around Ventura County in recent years, has decided to renovate Olivas Park Golf Course and Buenaventura Golf Course - two of the better municipal layouts in Southern California.

Golf architect Forrest Richardson of Phoenix has been chosen to oversee the work on the $14 million project, which will include only cosmetic work at Buenaventura and a major reconstruction at Olivas Park.

Both courses were designed by famed designer William F. Bell, Buenaventura in 1932 and Olivas Park in 1969.

"With Buenaventura, our goal is to preserve the charm it has, but restore some dignity to it," Richardson said. "With Olivas, it's more of a change than what is there now. Olivas is an open canvas, which gives us the ability to change more."

There is more land available at Olivas Park, so much so that originally it was planned as an additional nine holes. However, a survey showed that Ventura residents play enough golf to support only one 18-hole course and that 55% of the golf at Olivas Park and Buenaventura is played by players from outside the city limits.

"With that discovery, it made no economic sense to build more holes at Olivas," said Greg Gilmer, golf services manager for the city of Ventura.

Ventura has been discussing the renovation for several years and at one time there was even talk of swapping land with the California Coast Conservancy and building two new golf courses to replace Buenaventura and Olivas Park. Eventually it was decided that renovation was the best way to go and the process began officially in 1999, when the city hired Golf Dimensions, a golf course consultant firm, to develop a master plan for the alterations.

Because there is no additional land available at Buenaventura, the course will simply be spruced up and maintain its current feel. The lack of space also eliminated the idea of building a driving range, although the driving range down the street at Olivas Park will be expanded and renovated.

Work is expected to begin at Buenaventura in the fall of 2003 and take between 10 months and a year. When reconstruction is completed, work will begin on Olivas Park, which is expected to take a year to 14 months.

Buenaventura will play from tees ranging from 4,500 to 6,000 yards and it has not been determined if par will be 70 or 71. Olivas Park will range from 5,000 to 7,000 yards and will play to a par of either 71 or 72.

The Olivas Park renovation will include major changes to the infrastructure, including irrigation systems and the clubhouse. Also, the plan will eliminate the east-to-west configuration of the course, which often plays into the wind and the sun. Also in the planning is an expanded practice area, with a three-hole practice loop that will be called the "Little Olivas Loop."

Both courses are used every year for the Ventura City Championships and Ventura County Championships, and the California State Open was played at Buenaventura in 1984 and 1985.

Southern California Golf Expo Canceled

The Southern California PGA and the Southern California Golf Assn. announced that the Original Southern California Golf Expo will not be held in 2003 because attendance by fans and golf manufacturers has dwindled in recent years.

The SCPGA and SCGA cited the rising cost of producing the show and the struggling economy for closing down one of the leading consumer golf shows in the nation after 13 years.

"Our committee is still together and we will be looking into other ways to serve the golf public in the future," said Greg Flores, media relations manager for the SCPGA.

The first SCPGA Golf Expo was held at Anaheim Stadium in 1990 and later moved to the Anaheim Convention Center, the Long Beach Convention Center and the Fairplex in Pomona, where it was held the last two years.

The show drew crowds of about 20,000 at its height of popularity and averaged more than 13,000, but only 8,100 were in attendance last year--an all-time low.

The SCPGA also started what has become the PGA Merchandising Show, which was sold to the PGA of America and is now held annually in Orlando, FL. With the proceeds of the sale, the SCPGA created the PGA of Southern California Golf Club, featuring the Champions and Legends courses, in Beaumont.

During its 13-year run, the Original Southern California Golf Expo provided more than 20,000 complimentary golf lessons, given by PGA professionals, and handed out nearly 10,000 free golf clubs to juniors.

The SCGA joined the SCPGA as a partner in the event in 2000.

Jacobsen the Driving Force at New Course

Peter Jacobsen, the PGA Tour pro, brings his sticks when he is designing a golf course.

That's nothing new, of course. Most golf historians and fans have seen the black and white pictures of Bobby Jones hitting golf balls as he laid out perhaps America's most famous course, August National Golf Club, in the 1930s.

Jacobsen employed the technique as he designed Moorpark Country Club, which opened Oct. 1.

"Peter was standing on the back tee box on No. 18 deciding where to put a bunker in the fairway," said Mike Nix, general manager. "He launched a drive that hit a bulldozer parked about 300 yards away, and that's where he put the bunker."

Jacobsen's bunker will be reachable from the tee for only the big hitters, but he has sculpted 27 spectacular holes in Grimes Canyon. Moorpark is the latest of several new courses built in Ventura County in the last few years, including Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley, Tierra Rejada Golf Club in Moorpark, Rustic Canyon Golf Club in Moorpark and Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo.

The first 18 holes were first played on Sept. 30 with a benefit to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of Moorpark.

"We're a semi-private course, so there will be a membership product available, but we will always be open to the public," Nix said. "The whole project includes 216 homes, 27 holes of golf and a full practice facility. The first 18 are part of the first two phases and the final nine holes will be part of the third and fourth phases."

Green fees are $75 on weekdays and $95 on weekends (carts included), and reservations are taken seven days in advance. The course will feature five sets of tees, ranging in distance from 7,078 yards for the championship to 5,355 yards from the forward tees. The 676-yard fifth at Moorpark Country Club is the longest hole in Ventura County.

Jacobsen designed a course that is playable for golfers of all abilities, with fairly wide fairways, a moderate amount of hazards and large greens with subtle undulations.

"It's a course that gives players options," Nix said. "There are a lot of risk-reward type holes where a player has the choice of going for a tougher play or they have the option of playing it safe. We're looking at this facility as a course where a family can come out and play together."

"Peter did a great job of creating a fair test of golf for players of all levels. We moved over 5 million cubic yards of dirt to create a course that is fair. Even on the hardest holes, if you hit good golf shots, you're going to be rewarded."

Ron Cox, who was general manager at Brookside Golf Course in Pasadena, has been hired to be the head golf professional.

Back to the Future at Ojai

Ojai Valley Inn and Spa, which boasts one of the classic golf courses in Southern California is presenting its Classic Thomas Golf Package for a limited time.

Guests at the resort can play unlimited golf Sunday through Thursday on the legendary George C. Thomas-designed golf course, which opened in 1924 at the foot of the majestic Topa Topa Mountains, only 20 minutes from Ventura and the Pacific Ocean.

Playing Ojai, which was a getaway for Humphrey Bogart and some of his Hollywood buddies, is a journey through history, especially on the "Lost Holes," Nos. 7 and 8, which were restored the way Thomas designed them nearly 80 years ago.

When World War II broke out, the military took over the property and erected Quonset huts and tents on the front nine, leaving the back side for play by officers returning from the war. When the property was handed back after the war, two other holes were added and two originals were lost for half a century until the restoration by designer Jay Moorish a few years ago.

The seventh hole is a replica of a famous par-three at Pine Valley Golf Club in New Jersey, considered by many experts to be the best course in the United States.

The Classic Thomas Golf Package includes room, unlimited golf and golf cart. Rates start at $170 per person per night, based on double occupancy. A minimum two-night stay is required. Please call (805) 646-5511.

Bacara Presents Surf and Turf

Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara is offering its Spa and Golf Package in cooperation with its next-door neighbor, Sandpiper Golf Course.

Sandpiper, which has been ranked among the best public courses in the nation since it opened in 1971, has been called the "Pebble Beach of Southern California." In fact, the 224-yard 11th hole is a bit reminiscent of the famed seventh hole at Pebble.

The challenging seaside links-style course, which has hosted PGA Tour Qualifying School and the PGA Tout Tournament Player Series, features spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains on every hole.

The package includes accommodations for two at Bacara, unlimited play at Sandpiper with preferred tee ties, or two 50-minute spa treatments daily.

The package is available Sunday through Thursday at $225 per night, exclusive of tax and gratuity. Weekend rates begin at $625 per night and a two-night stay is required.

While in Santa Barbara, you can also enjoy Rancho San Marcos Golf Course, Glen Annie Golf Club and Santa Barbara Golf Club.

Golf Up to Par Down in Mexico

The South of the Border Pro-Am Invitational will be played Oct. 27-28 at the scenic Bajamar Oceanfront Golf Resort in Ensenada, Mexico, which is a member club of the Southern California Golf Assn.

An optional nine-hole Skins Game will be played at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, and the pro-am team event will commence with a shotgun start the next day at 8:30 a.m.

Bajamar offers three spectacular nines, the Vista designed by David Fleming, the Lagos designed by Percy Clifford and the Oceano designed by Robert Van Hagge.

The Golfer Package costs $175 per player and includes the pro-am, dinner, lunch and hotel room double occupancy.

The Golfer/Non-Golfer Package goes for $210 and includes two dinners, two lunches, hotel room for two and the pro-am fee for one.

The Bajamar turnoff on the toll highway is 48 miles south of the international border at Tijuana.

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.

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