RANCHO MIRAGE – For 45 years, Tamarisk Country Club was part of the biggest and most famous pro-am in the Coachella Valley, the PGA Tour’s Bob Hope Classic. But after the 2005 Hope, Tamarisk quietly slipped away from the Hope with no press releases or announcements that the course’s days in the tournament were finished.
“There was nothing much to say,” said Sandy Hertz, a board member at Tamarisk and the club’s golf chairman. “We were invited not to be in it. Is that a good way to phrase it?”
Nine years after the last PGA Tour shots were hit at Tamarisk, the fabled club is returning to the pro-am scene on an admitted smaller scale. The first pro-am played at the second-oldest 18-hole course in the desert will be May 1 featured Desert Chapter PGA pros and benefitting the Tracy Lane Foundation.
“We got together and decided that it’s time that Tamarisk, which has spent so many wonderful years here in the desert, continued to give something back to the community here,” Hertz said. “And we came up with this concept and it was (head pro Kyle Kelly), his concept to bring the Tracy Lane Foundation to our attention.”
The Lane Foundation is named for Tracy Lane, a Desert Chapter PGA member who died last year of cervical cancer at just 31 years old. Lane and her husband Derek Lane, the director of golf at The Quarry at La Quinta, dedicated the final weeks of her life to spreading an educational message about cervical cancer and vaccinations and tests that can prevent the disease. Derek Lane has since pursued raising funds for the foundation for educations and research.
But while the Tamarisk pro-am is for a good cause supported by the Desert Chapter PGA and the Southern California PGA in general, the event is also a chance for Tamarisk to re-introduce itself to the desert community nine years after it was last prominent in the desert golf scene.
“I think sometime you become insular,” said another Tamarisk board member, Janet Emmerman. “We have a lot of people from out of town, from all over the country. And the come in here and they play golf and they see their friends and they go home.
“There is an excitement when you can introduce your course to other people when you can host something like this,” Emmerman added. “People can enjoy what you enjoy and you feel like you are doing something positive at the same time.”
Tamarisk, opened in 1952 one year after Thunderbird Country Club opened as the first 18-hole course in the desert, was part of the original Palm Springs Golf Classic in 1960. That tournament eventually became the Bob Hope Classic and is now the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. By 1964, Tamarisk had dropped into a two-year rotation for the Hope with Eldorado Country Club and eventually with La Quinta Country Club.
But by 2005, with Eldorado and Indian Wells country clubs having left the tournament and concerns over the lengths of courses becoming more important on the tour, Tamarisk was played for the final time in the event.
Now, through the Lane Foundation event, Tamarisk is letting players from outside of the club get a look inside the course that was home for the Marx Brothers and Frank Sinatra, among others.
The pro-am will feature 20 pros and 60 amateurs playing in the same format of the old Hope tournament, one pro with three amateurs playing a net tournament with the pros playing a metal tournament.
Photo Credit: Larry Bohannan/The Desert Sun