One hundred years ago, Hancock Park was a very different place. Los Angeles and the area that would become Hancock Park, Larchmont Village, Windsor Square and beyond were just starting to be developed. In 1919, G. Allen Hancock decided to turn his abandoned oil field into a golf course and build luxury housing around it. He leased the land to the founder of the Wilshire Country Club, who later purchased the land, according to Wilshire Country Club president Patrick O’Grady.
We met with O’Grady on Friday as we wandered around the course watching the second day of the LPGA Hugel-Air Premia Tournament. Minjee Lee holds the lead when play ended yesterday. Lee shot a 69 on Friday with an eagle and two birdies on the day, according to LPGA.com.
O’Grady explained the course is essentially the same as it was 100 years ago when it was designed by Norman Macbeth, who was also one of the founders of the club.
“It’s a modern, short course,” explained O’Grady. “It was designed that way 100 years ago. There’s a barranca (the Spanish word for canyon or ravine) that was caused by the erosion of water running through the course that crosses 13 holes. It’s a challenging course, what it lacks in length, it makes up in teeth!”
O’Grady told us that Howard Hughes’ father developed a drill bit that could drill through clay soil more efficiently than most on the market, enabling Los Angeles oil speculators to pull out significantly more oil. As a nod to this tradition and the land’s former use as an oil field, all the tees on the course are marked with these old drill bits. Because of tournament play, we couldn’t get onto a tee to share a photo but we will post one when we can.
O’Grady credit the oil industry and the movies for making LA the great city that it has become and he is thrilled to welcome in the club’s next century with the LPGA tournament. He added the timing of contemporary issues focusing on women’s empowerment make it especially nice to have the LPGA at the venerable old club.
“I have three sisters and three daughters, it’s just perfect timing to have these fine women athletes competing showing the course is still relevant,” said O’Grady. “LA is changing all the time, but when you walk in here, it’s like entering a time capsule of tradition.”
The LPGA is glad to be at Wilshire too, David Tucker, Account Director at Eiger Marketing, the sports promotion company who puts on the tournament told the Buzz. Tucker was the food and beverage director at Wilshire for four years before leaving to work for Eiger and he told the Buzz yesterday he thrilled to be back on the grounds giving the club and the community a four-day showcase of the high level professional golf.
“We want this tournament to be something special for the neighborhood too,” explained Tucker. “We hosted a leadership lunch earlier this week that raised over $20,000 for Girls Inc. as an example of how the LPGA wants to give back to the community.”
In addition, the hosted a “play with a pro” opportunity for a young golfer to play the entire course with a pro, offering an opportunity learn the strategy of playing the course along side a professional.
“The LPGA LA Open is a great tournament for kids, the admission is free,” said Tucker. Ticket packages start at $25 for adults.
If you’re into golf, you already know all the reasons to come to the tournament. If you’re into history or just curious to see the course, here’s your chance to walk this 100 year old course and experience a part of neighborhood history.