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Star power

Our top 10 favorite celebrity golf tournaments in Southern California — and how you can take part.

By Joel BeersPublished: October, 2008

Stars don't only come out at night. Sometimes they stand on the tee in the middle of the afternoon in support of a good cause.

With its hundreds of courses and a region where many actors and entertainers reside, Southern California is the epicenter of celebrity golf tournaments, which not only raise funds for charities but also elevate awareness for worthy causes.

There are several ways that non-celebrities can get involved in these tournaments. The easiest — if costliest — is to pay the entry fee, which can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the prestige and scope of the event. Another way is to volunteer through contacting the organization. And then there’s always simply attending the event and paying admission to watch the celebrities play.

Here are 10 events in the area where stars help shine the spotlight where it’s needed most.

Site: Four courses throughout the Coachella Valley.
Background: The Palm Springs Golf Classic became an official PGA Tour event in 1960. But it didn’t kick into high gear until entertainer and Palm Springs resident Bob Hope lent his name to the proceedings. Along with the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, it’s the only PGA Tour event where amateurs — both celebrities and those non-celebrities who pay the money to compete — play with professionals during competitive rounds.
Star cachet: The event’s prestige and national exposure bring out a number of celebrities each year, and five-time champion Arnold Palmer becomes the official host in 2009.
Charitable organization: Net proceeds are donated to the Eisenhower Medical Center and 40 other charities in the Coachella Valley.
Next year’s event: Jan. 19-25.
How to get involved: Volunteer by calling (760) 346-8184 or sending an e-mail to You also can purchase a hospitality tent for $21,000, or a 40-person suite overlooking the 18th hole at PGA West’s Arnold Palmer Private Course for $31,000. Access to the Bob Hope Club on Saturday and Sunday costs $650. You also can play in the event if your handicap index is 18 or lower. The cost is $12,000.
Noteworthy: There have been plenty of celebrities and great moments, and the 1995 tournament ranks among the most memorable. Defending champion Scott Hoch’s pro-am team included then-president Bill Clinton, former commanders in chief George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford, and the man himself — Bob Hope.


Inception: 1970.
Site: Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Background: This is the largest fund-raiser for the Los Angeles Police Department’s Police Memorial Fund, which helps the families of officers killed in the line of duty. Hundreds of celebrities have supported the event over the years. Along with golf, the LAPD sets up a number of displays for spectators, including a police helicopter, squad cars and motorcycles, along with information on SWAT, K-9, bomb squads and mounted units.
Star cachet: A short list of celebrity hosts suggests the quality of stars: Dean Martin, Jack Lemmon, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Jack Nicholson, Craig T. Nelson, James Woods and Miguel Ferrer.
Charitable organization: LAPD’s Police Memorial Fund.
Next year’s event: May 30.
How to get involved: Entry-level sponsorships are $3,500, which include entry fee and post-tournament party. General admission tickets are $5. For more information, call (213) 847-4239.
Noteworthy: In 1994, Jack Nicholson took a 2-iron to the windshield of a Mercedes Benz whose driver cut him off before a traffic signal in North Hollywood. One month later, he hosted the police department’s tournament.

Inception: 1972.
Site: Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.
Background: It’s fitting that an event launched in part by its association with one of the biggest stars of the 1960s, Dinah Shore, schedules two of the biggest celebrity pro-ams on the golf calendar. They’re held on the Tuesday and Wednesday before the Kraft Nabisco Championship and take place on Mission Hills’ two courses.
Star cachet: Since this pro-am is affiliated with a major championship, it gets a strong list of names from the entertainment and sports industries. Last year, the celebrity pro-ams were won by teams that included Carlton Fisk, Tommy Smothers and Jim Plunkett. Among other participants were John Havlicek, Dennis Haysbert, Craig T. Nelson and Brooks Robinson.
Charitable organization: More than $5 million has been raised for desert charities since Kraft took over title sponsorship in 2002.
Next year’s event: March 30-April 5.
How to get involved: The entry fee is $12,000, which includes two practice rounds and two competitive rounds. People interested in volunteering can visit
Quotable: “The Kraft Nabisco Championship Celebrity Pro-Am is special because of the combination of the lady professionals who have the reputation of being great pro-am partners and players as well as the celebrities,” said tournament director Terry Wilcox. “Many of the celebrities have attended for more than 20 years and know the professionals and the pro-am guests. The celebrities add a level of excitement for both the players and the tournament attendees.”

Inception: 1979.
Site: Indian Wells Country Club and Renaissance Esmeralda Resort and Spa in Indian Wells.
Background: Sinatra started the event to raise money for wife Barbara’s children’s center. But Ol’ Blue Eyes also liked to play golf and socialize with friends, so his tournament, while featuring two days of golf at Indian Wells, also features a pairing’s party on Thursday, a party Friday night, and a gala concert on Saturday, which last year featured Liza Minelli.
Star cachet: Sinatra’s name is iconic, especially in the greater Palm Springs area. That, plus the fact Barbara Sinatra remains involved, tends to attract a range of entertainers and athletes. Some of last year’s participants included Dick Van Dyke, Rollie Fingers, Bobby Grich, Harmon Killebrew, Joe Mantegna, Vince Neil, Smokey Robinson, Elke Sommer and Robert Wagner.
Charitable organization: More than $550,000 was raised for the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center at Eisenhower Medical Center, the charity for which the event was launched.
Next year’s event: Feb. 19-21.
How to get involved: The entry fee is $4,500, which includes tournament slots and party tickets. A limited number of tickets for non-tournament players to the black-tie gala are $1,000. Gallery tickets are $20. For more information, including volunteer applications, call (760) 674-8447 or visit
Quotable: “Frank played in the first few tournaments with Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and, another year, Clint Eastwood,” Barbara Sinatra said. “But he really enjoyed riding around the course in his cart kibitzing with the players. Just being with the golfers was special for him … and me. We have continued many of the traditions he began and our golfers have come to enjoy and expect.”

Inception: 1999.
Site: Morgan Run Country Club in Rancho Santa Fe.
Background: This event is part of the Celebrity Players Tour, an organization comprised of tournaments in which  top celebrity golfers compete for cash prizes. Non-celebrities play a pro-am on Thursday and Friday and celebrities compete for the $10,000 top prize on the final two days.
Star cachet: Host Stan Humphries led the San Diego Chargers to its only Super Bowl appearance, in 1994. The list of celebrity golfers who participated this year included Marcus Allen, Rollie Fingers, Grant Fuhr, Jim McMahon, Bode Miller, Ray Romano, Bret Saberhagen and Ozzie Smith.
Charitable organization: Since its inception, more than $1 million has been raised for Rady Children’s Hospital.
Next year’s event: April 23-26.
How to get involved: General admission tickets can be purchased for $10 at the gate, and are valid all four days of the tournament. Free tickets are offered to kids 10 and under and military personnel with valid identification. For more information, call (858) 836-0133.
Noteworthy: Former quarterbacks have played big roles in two of the event’s most noticeable accomplishments. In its first year, the CFL’s John Congemi made a hole-in-one and received a $50,000 check from Maxfli. Trent Dilfer, who led the Baltimore Ravens to victory in the 2000 Super Bowl, set a tournament record with a 62 in 2001.

Inception: 2004.
Site: El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana.
Background: This tournament has quickly established itself as a top draw. It’s named after a young actor who died from melanoma, and one of its main supporters is the Actors Network, an organization that supports aspiring actors on the business side of their careers. That has helped solidify a connection that attracts both top-name and emerging stars. 
Star cachet: Last year, Michael Chiklis, Dennis Haysbert, Joe Mantegna and Joe Pesci participated.
Charitable organization: Between $35,000 and $75,000 has been raised each year for the Melanoma Research Foundation.
Next year’s event: April 20.
How to get involved: Entry fee is $400. For volunteer information, visit
Quotable: “I’m not here to be a lights-out golfer, I’m here to help a cause,” Chiklis said at this year’s event. “It benefits melanoma [research] and I know personally a number of people who have been afflicted. Early detection is huge, and prevention is a big part as well.

Inception: 1999.
Background: De La Hoya is an Olympic gold medal boxing winner and holder of 10 professional titles in six weight classes.
Star cachet: The Golden Boy uses his contacts to attract some top-name people. Among the players this year were Eric Close, James Denton, George Lopez, Kevin Nealon and Ron Perlman.
Charitable organization: All proceeds go to De La Hoya’s charitable foundation, which helps fund projects and programs designed to assist the East Los Angeles community where the boxer grew up.
Next year’s event: Tentatively set for the the late spring or summer at Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank.
How to get involved: The entry fee is $2,500, but since it’s at a private club, spectators aren’t allowed. For more information, including volunteer opportunities, call (213) 489-5631.
Noteworthy: This is one of the few celebrity golf tournaments with a corporate sponsor. Tecate beer has helped put it on for the past three years.

Inception: 1998.
Site: Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank.
Background: The tournament is organized by the nonprofit foundation Glaser began in 1988 to help children with AIDS. Glaser’s foundation is now a leading health advocacy organization with a global reach into 18 countries, and it raised more than $84 million in 2006.
Star cachet: Glaser was the wife of Paul Michael-Glaser, of “Starsky and Hutch” fame. His contacts, along with the cause, make this one of the most Hollywood-intensive celebrity tournaments in the region. Sharon Stone serves as the auction host, and celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone, Sugar Ray Leonard and Ray Romano have participated.
Charitable organization: In 2007, the event raised nearly $800,000 — the highest total in its nine-year history.
Next: The tournament is October 8, with James Caan and Joe Pesci serving as celebrity co-hosts.
How to get involved: This year’s event is full, and there’s a waiting list for entry fees.
Quotable: “Although our players play to help the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, celebrity participation
in our annual golf tournament is invaluable as far as generating interest,” said Dr. Peter Waldstein, the event’s chairman. “Everyone loves donating to a great cause like fighting pediatric HIV/AIDS, and getting to do it while playing golf with some of Hollywood’s biggest celebs is a fantastic draw.”

Inception: 1999
Background: In terms of star density, it’s the weightiest celebrity golf tournament, since only a handful of celebs are allowed to participate. It’s always played on a terrific course (Riviera last year, Trump National the year before) and the three five-person teams of celebrities always include co-hosts Douglas and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Star cachet: This year’s event included Morgan Freeman, Jack Wagner, Alice Cooper, Heather Locklear and Martin Sheen.
Charitable organization: This is a major fund-raiser for the Motion Picture and Television Fund, an organization that offers health care assistance to current and retired members of the entertainment industry. Since its inception, the tournament has raised $6 million.
Next year: Time and date to be announced.
Quotable: “Even though I’m just a flute player, I’m just as tough as Alice Cooper,” Kenny G said at this year’s event.

Inception: 2007.
Site: Valencia Country Club in Valencia.
Background: Wagner’s father died from multiple myeloma in 1990. His brother, Dennis, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1999 and received a bone marrow transplant this year. Wagner, one of the best celebrity golfers to ever pick up a stick, figured he’d put his golf skills to work in raising money to fight cancer.
Star cachet: Wagner is an Emmy-nominated actor and a recording artist. His fame, along with his reputation as a serious golfer, attracts some big names. The first two years of the event, celebrities such as Marcus Allen, Wayne Gretzky, Bruce Jenner, Al Michaels and Joe Pesci participated.
Charitable organization: More than $550,000 was raised last year to help bolster research for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Next year’s event: April 21.
How to involved: The entry fee is $5,000, and volunteers are welcome. For information, call (310) 846-4733 or send an e-mail to
Quotable: “Let Dennis be an example to us that our efforts truly make a difference,” Wagner said. “He is still with us today because of new life-saving treatments, and I’d like to thank each and every person for their contribution that enables us to push for a cure.”

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When will the tournament this year 2010?
Comment at 9/27/2010