Just two weeks after the LPGA Tour played the Chevron Championship in the Coachella Valley for the 51st and final time, another professional tour will take advantage of that void by bringing a new event to the desert on the same course.
The PGA Tour Champions, a division of the PGA Tour for male golfers 50 and older, will hold a new event in the desert March 24-26, 2023.
The event, to be called the Galleri Classic, will be played on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, the same course that hosted the LPGA major championship for 51 years. The Chevron Championship was played for the last time in the desert earlier this month, with the event moving to Houston in 2023.
The senior tour will make an official announcement along with revealing other details of the new tournament at a news conference Tuesday at Mission Hills Country Club.
“It’s not only very exciting for our tour, it’s something our players have wanted for a very long time, but it is exciting to keep and bring consistent professional golf to the Coachella Valley,” said Miller Brady, the president of the PGA Tour Champions division of the PGA Tour.
Brady said the new tournament came together quickly with sponsor Grail, Inc., a Menlo Park, California-based biotechnology company. One of its products is Galleri, a test for those adults, particularly over 50, who have elevated cancer risks.
Part of the birth of the new tournament, Brady confirmed, was the LPGA’s announcement last October that it was leaving the desert.
“We didn’t think that the area could sustain one of our tournaments with the PGA Tour (The American Express) and the women there all in the first quarter,” Brady said.
The second and third quarters of the year can’t host a tournament in the desert because of high temperatures, Brady said, and the fourth quarter for the PGA Tour Champions is already filled, including the Charles Schwab Cup playoffs.
Brady said that long before he took over as president of the PGA Tour Champions in 2018, players from the tour have asked why the tour doesn’t hold a tournament in the Coachella Valley.
“They have great memories there,” Brady said. “And the demographics there are perfect for us.”
While The Dinah Shore Course will host the tournament in 2023, Brady said the tournament could move around the desert to other courses starting in 2024. He said the tour will soon check out other potential desert courses.
“Whatever it is, it has to work for us,” Brady said.
A statue of Dinah Shore overlooks the 18th green at Mission Hills Country Club Tournament Course in Rancho Mirage, Calif., March 24, 2022.
The Coachella Valley has not hosted an official PGA Tour Champions event since 1997, the last of three years for the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf at PGA West in La Quinta. The desert also was home to one of the first senior golf events, the Vintage Invitational, sponsored by Gulfstream Aerospace. That event at The Vintage Club in Indian Wells started in 1981, when the tour was known as the Senior PGA Tour, and moved to the Indian Wells Golf Resort in 1993, the last year the tournament was played.
Other desert tournaments that included senior golfers in the 1990s included made-for-television events The Diners Club Matches and the Lexus Challenge, both short-lived tournaments in the desert.
Players who were stars on the PGA Tour and now play a majority of their golf on the PGA Tour’s senior circuit include two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer, a winner of 43 Champions events, along with major championship winners Ernie Els, Retief Goodson, Vijay Singh and Fred Couples and top senior players like Scott McCarron, Colin Montgomerie and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Other golfers who play at least some golf on the PGA Tour Champions include Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Davis Love III.
“Most of our guys play every tournament,” Brady said. “We don’t have a depth of field problem. Unless there is an injury or they have a wedding to go to or something like that, our guys are all in.”
Among the golfers who won The American Express is David Duval, who famously captured the 1999 title with a final-round 59 to overcome a seven-shot deficit. That win helped push Duval to No. 1 in the world rankings. Now a rookie on the PGA Tour Champions, Duval is eager to play again in the Coachella Valley.
“It does make a lot of sense, and especially the timing of it,” Duval said of the new Coachella Valley event. “It falls into a great spot on the schedule, and it fills a great gap.”
Duval, who has made five starts so far as a PGA Tour Champions rookie, says the senior tour can appeal to fans in different ways.
“I think there is excellence, excellence in the golf being played,” Duval said. “There is also some nostalgia that is involved with it, because these are the players that so many people are familiar with, you know, watching and admiring. And I think the fact that the players are that much more approachable on the Champions, friendly and engaging.”
Bob Ragusa, CEO of Grail, said the union of the PGA Tour Champions and the Coachella Valley made sense for his company and its new cancer detection drug Galleri.
“You think about the guys on the PGA Tour Champions, all over 50, and at some point they have all been touched by cancer in some way, them or their family or friends,” Ragusa said. “So to be able to partner with the PGA Tour Champions and spread awareness of our Galleri product for the next five years makes sense to us.”
Ragusa also said that he considers Grail to be a California company rather than a Menlo Park company, so being part of a PGA Tour Champions event in Rancho Mirage works well for the company,
“It’s more than just the golf course,” Ragusa said. “It’s the scenery. It’s the atmosphere. It’s just everything,”
While PGA Tour events feature between 144 and 156 players playing four days with a mid-tournament cut, PGA Tour Champions events are generally three days and 54 holes with a field of around 80 players and no cuts. The tour does play five major events, which are four-day tournaments, including the US Senior Open and the Senior PGA Championship. The PGA Tour Champions events are usually broadcast on Golf Channel, and purses for regular events range from $1.6 to $2.5 million.
The PGA Tour Champions will play 27 events this season. For next year, the desert event will follow the Hoag Classic in Newport Beach, played this year March 4-6 and won by Goosen.
The other California event on the senior tour is the Pure Insurance Championship to be played Sept. 23-25 in Monterey.
The LPGA’s Chevron Championship, with Chevron as the new sponsor, will be moving to the Houston area in 2023 with the promise of a new May date, NBC as a television partner and a purse increase to $5 million which began the year.
Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer. He can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 778-4633. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @larry_bohannan. Support Local journalism. Subscribe to The Desert Sun.