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Before and during World War II, Borrego Springs, a town of roughly 700 residents, and surrounding desert was a practice ground for US Armed Forces. In 1945 electricity reached Borrego for the first time. In 1949 a Post Office was established. The post war era is the time that Southern Californians started to discover the beauty of the Borrego Valley as a place to visit, vacation and live. The tourism era of Borrego Springs had begun.

Borrego Desert Club was the first social club opened to part time residents and full-time residents. It offered dining, drinks, a pool, and gorgeous views of the valley. The clubhouse, on Tilting T Drive, is currently the University of California, Irvine-Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Ctr.

A member of that club, George “Bud” Kuhrts, a golf enthusiast, decided that Borrego Springs needed a first-class golf course. With encouragement from gentlemen like James Copley (San Diego Union Tribune), Bud formed The Borrego Valley Golf Improvement Company.
Members of the board of directors were:
George J. Kuhrts – President – Borrego Springs CA
Robert DiGeorgio – Vice President – San Francisco CA
Jack Benson – Treasurer – Borrego Springs CA
William Buerkle – Buttonwillow CA
A.A. Burnand – Borrego Springs CA
J.J. Kovacevich – Bakersfield CA

The proposal, approved by the State of California in November of 1954, was for a 400-acre golf course and residential subdivision called de Anza Desert Country Club and Estates. The Borrego Valley Golf Improvement Company would develop and construct the subdivision and course. The course when completed would be leased to De Anza Desert Country Club. The land, in the northwest corner of Borrego Springs, was purchased from the Burnand family of San Diego.

To raise money towards this endeavor it was announced in December of 1954 that shares of this project would be available for purchase until May 15, 1955. 5,000 brochures were printed and distributed. The shares offered were “Class A” for $1,000 and “Class B” for $500.

A board of directors was established for the new club at this time, it included:
William H. Black – LaJolla CA
Austen S. Cargill – Minneapolis MN
Donald H. Castle – Borrego Springs CA
James S. Copley – Aurora IL
Cyril Gail – Santa Monica CA
Roy Guppy – Borrego Springs CA
Eric V. Hauser – Portland OR
Ruport V. Hauser – Wolfeboro NH
Dr. Adolph Kosky – Santa Monica CA
Rear Admiral Ralph Wood US Navy Retired – Borrego Springs CA
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Early 1955 famed golf course designer Lawrence Hughes was hired for the project. He has many successful designs in both the USA and Mexico, including:
Desert Inn – Las Vegas NV (closed)
El Dorado Country Club – Indian Wells CA
Indio Golf Club – Indio CA
La Quinta Country Club – La Quinta CA
Marin Country Club – Novato CA
Santa Barbara Golf Club – Santa Barbara CA
Thunderbird Country Club – Rancho Mirage CA
Tomahawk Lake Country Club – Deadwood SD

In March of 1955 elections within de Anza Desert Country Club’s board of directors took place naming Austen S. Cargill the first president. William H. Black became vice president. George J. Kuhrts was treasurer and finally James S. Copley was voted secretary.

September of 1955 ground was broken on the first 9 holes along with a temporary club house. Target completion was the fall of 1956. The second 9 holes, permanent club house and pool would start shortly after. In May of 1956, shareholders attended a meeting held at the San Diego Union Tribune to exchange shares for home lots. Lots were assigned via a drawing overseen by Sheila Furlong of Borrego Springs.
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On Saturday, January 5, 1957, de Anza Desert Country Club opened the first 9 holes for play. Austen Cargill opened the course with a drive off the first tee.

Frank Morey, the first head golf professional at De Anza, oversaw the play of 84 golfers comprising of members and their guests.
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Along with Frank, the members were introduced to the work of de Anza’s first greens keeper, W.H. “Tige” Stanley. Tige, at that time, was well known in the southwest golfing community from his work in Phoenix and Yuma. His work at De Anza via future events would make him known worldwide.

The best score on day one was shot by Johnny Dawson of Palm Springs, who posted 72, playing the 9 holes twice.

That opening weekend at de Anza was full of social events. On Friday night many members and guest jumped from new house to new house on the course for cocktail parties and dinners. Saturday night celebrated the first club event at the temporary club house with a buffet dinner consisting of Smoked Turkey, Tamales, Baked Beans, and assorted Salads. All equipment for the buffet was provided by Mrs. Burnand. The members and guests were all dressed in Bermuda shorts, slacks, sport coats, etc. Most came in straight off the golf course. The attire that night was what we would now refer to as “Country Club Casual.”

On February 19, 1957, Manuel Rodriguez scored the first hole in one with a 3 iron from 173 yards on hole number 7 (today’s 16th hole). Manuel was the Superintendent of Borrego Farms at that time.

Shortly after the course opened, head pro, Frank Morey, started work on the first of what would become famous de Anza one day ProAm tournaments. That first tournament was held in March of 1957 and was won by Len Kennett of Camp Pendleton. He won while setting a course record of 68.

During this time of development around Borrego Springs and specifically the de Anza Estates, many celebrities started to visit the Valley. This included Bing Crosby, who acquired 1,000 acres of land in Borrego Springs from Mrs. Maria Helen Alvarez of La Jolla CA. Much of this acreage was on the northeast side of De Anza.

As development continued within the de Anza Estates, the club announced in November of 1958 the opening of the first four (of 12) cabanas. These cabanas were next door to the club along the first hole. Each four cabanas shared a private pool and were available for visiting members and guests. Today those twelve cabanas are still occupied and individually owned.

On the 7th and 8th of February 1959 de Anza Desert Country Club held a two-day (36 hole) tournament and celebration in honor of the opening of the second 9 holes. The new 9 holes were also designed and overseen by Lawrence Hughes. Dinner parties on Friday and Saturday were held at the Borrego Desert Club. Breakfast and lunches were held at the temporary club house at de Anza while the permanent club house was being completed. This tournament included 180 golfers in both men’s and women’s divisions. Ladies’ champion of this tournament was Ellen Bowering of San Diego Country Club shooting 85-88 for a total of 173. Men’s champion was Gene Andrews of Los Angeles who posted 71-71 for a total of 142.

The course impressed the players, members, guests, and the attending press leading to an interview with greens keeper Tige Stanley. A reporter from the San Diego Union Tribune sat down with Tige to ask about how he got this Lawrence Hughes instant classic into the fantastic shape that it debuted in. He shared that the course uses a unique bent grass that was developed by Penn State University called “Penn Cross.” The beautiful sand that can stay put in the traps during heavy desert winds is “Silica” sand, which is mined and imported from Oceanside, CA. Two wells on the golf course allows them to pump up to 750 gallons per minute while watering the course for 10 hours per day, which produced the magical green oasis that this course had become.

Nine days after the full 18 holes debuted, de Anza and head professional Frank Morey hosted the first ProAm on the completed course. Paul Runyan, pro at LaJolla Country Club won the 18-hole tournament while setting the course record of 68. He and his amateur partners of Tom Vogt (La Jolla CC), Dr. Gersay (La Jolla CC) and John Hill (De Anza DCC) won the team competition with a best ball score of 60.

Between the parties, social tournaments, ProAm tournaments and press coverage, de Anza and Borrego Springs were becoming popular in both the golfing and social communities of Southern California and beyond. This led to an amazing opportunity in the autumn of 1959.

Later that year, de Anza Desert Country Club announced that their next ProAm tournament would be held on Sunday, November 8th, 1959. The reason this date was targeted was the 1959 Ryder Cup was being played on November 6th and 7th at famed Lawrence Hughes designed El Dorado Country Club in Indian Wells CA. The announced purse of De Anza’s one day ProAm of $5,000 caught the eye of not only professional golfers around the west but also the Ryder Cup Teams. At that time, it was the largest purse at a professional tournament in Southern California history. That purse was eventually raised to $7,300. In a short time, the field filled with members of both the British and US Ryder Cup teams along with several other professionals.

The professional field was:
British Ryder Cup players in ProAm: Dao Rees, Harry Weetman, Peter Mills, Christy O’Connor, Eric Brown, Norman Drew, Peter Arlies, Bernard Hunt, Ken Bousfield, and Dave Thomas.
US Ryder Cup players in ProAm: Bob Rosburg, Art Wall, Dow Finsterwald, Mike Souchak, Jay Hebert, Doug Ford, and Julius Boros.
Other Professionals in ProAm: Sam Snead (US Ryder Cup Captain 1959), Billy Casper, Paul Runyan, Don Whitt (De Anza’s PGA Tour Player), Gene Littler, Red Bast, Charles Rizzo, Ed Susalla, Jimmy Hines, and Paul Harney
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Amateurs, three with each professional, were chosen via a drawing due to the popularity of this unique event. 

After the USA defeated Britain by a score of 8 ½ to 3 ½ points; both teams boarded a plane the following morning for the 20-minute flight to Borrego Springs to play the newest Lawrence Hughes design, de Anza Desert Country Club.

In front of a crowd of 4,000 the ProAm began at 9:00 AM. Of the 4,000 spectators, it was estimated that 700 alone followed “Slammin” Sammy Snead as he attacked the course. The final scores resulted in a three-way tie for first place. Posting 68’s were Sam Snead and Julius Boros of the USA and Dave Thomas of Britain. Jay Hebert of the USA was one shot behind with a 69.

ProAm champions that day were Jay Hebert (Professional), Robert Cahill, John Walter and Mike Gallagher.

In interviews after the tournament with Howard Hagen of the San Diego Union Tribune players and visiting press praised the club and course. These are a few of the quotes:
Mike Souchak (US Ryder Cup Team) “This is the finest kept course I have ever seen, period, and you can quote me.”
Julius Boros (US Ryder Cup Team) “The greens are wonderful.”
Ian Woolridge (London Chronicle) “This is the nicest golf course I have ever seen.”
Jay Hebert (US Ryder Cup Team) “This place is wonderful. It’s another Pinehurst.”
Sam Snead (US Ryder Cup Team Captain) “This course is even better than El Dorado.”

The original charm of Borrego Springs and de Anza Desert Country Club still hold strong as the town is now surrounded by the largest state park in the USA, the Anza-Borrego State Park. As a result, Borrego Springs did not become “another” Palm Springs and de Anza with its 1950’s allure is still that perfect "Desert Hideaway".
(Compiled and edited by Griff Lacey, sources:San Diego Union Tribune Archives and Howard Hagen)