Tiger Woods (left) was one of many great players to participate in the Catalina Junior Golf Tournament.

Catalina Island Country Club and Golf Course, which opened in 1892 and is the oldest operating course west of the Mississippi, will host the 51st annual Catalina Junior Golf Tournament on April 22-23 for boys and girls aged 9-to-18 years.

The 36-hole tournament will be played on the nine-hole, 2,100 yard course that has two different sets of tees to provide a challenging 18-hole test with five par-4 holes and four par-3s that play to a par of 64.

The course in Avalon, designed as a three-hole layout by John Duncan Dunn in 1892, was expanded to nine holes in the early 1900s and nine new tees were added in 1929 so that 18 holes could be played.

Catalina Island Golf Course is long and narrow, with small greens and deep bunkers, and plays through a canyon toward the Pacific Ocean, with stunning views of Avalon Bay and the Catalina Casino.

“The second left-hand canyon opens into Avalon Valley,” Millspaugh & Nottall wrote in Flora of Santa Catalina in 1923. “Its entrance is at the point where the golf course crosses Avalon Run. The lower end is very narrow and the slopes steep. It soon begins to rise sharply and terminates at the face of a bluff some distance below the top of the mountain. The soil is rich, the canyon well wooded, and was found to be a good collecting field. The bed is dry except during the rainy season.”

Lolo Saldaña, through the Catalina Men’s Golf Club, began the Catalina Island Junior Golf Tournament in 1967 and among the junior golfers who played in the event and went on to great fame include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Amy Alcott, Corey Pavin, Craig Stadler, Bob May, John Cook, Rickie Fowler,  Sydney Michaels, and Max Homa, to name just a few Southern California greats, who have all said holds great memories and it being the most fun of all the tournaments they played in.

Woods, from Cypress and considered by many to be the greatest golfer of all-time, first played in the tournament at age 5 and was filmed by “That’s Incredible”.  He returned to Catalina in high school to play interscholastically.

Catalina Island Golf Course also hosted the Bobby Jones Invitational Tournament from 1931 until 1955, featuring such celebrities as Mickey Rooney, Johnny Weissmuller, Vince Petrie Duke D’Arcy  and many more.  Lolo Saldaña, founder of the Junior Tournament, is the only island native to win the Bobby Jones tournament, which he did in 1951. He continued on to a successful college career competing against such players as Ken Venturi and Billy Casper.

In addition, the PGA Tour hosted the Catalina Open in the 1920s and 1930s, with 20-year-old Horton Smith’s winning score of 245 in 1928 representing the lowest 72-hole total in the history of professional golf and beating Walter Hagen by one stroke. 

The Catalina Junior Golf Tournament is for players of all abilities and is a non-profit event with proceeds going to support Catalina Junior Golf. The tournament’s goal is to provide a fun yet challenging event that encourages young golfers and their families to return to Catalina year after year and create memories that last a lifetime. 

For tournament information, visit www.catalinajrgolf.com.

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