Posted: Tuesday, August 8, 2017 – 12:14 PM
Yes, there will be a golf tournament this year. But no, it will never be the same again.
Coincidentally, the recent passing of Barbara Sinatra also marked some major changes in what had been the Desert’s premier celebrity golf tournament.
The event was born 31 years ago as a vehicle for Mr. Sinatra to invite a cadre of his show business friends for a three-day weekend full of camaraderie, fun, food and entertainment—and charity. With the “Chairman of the Board’s” encouragement, Barbara Sinatra used the golf tournament as the major fundraising event supporting what has now turned into the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, committed to breaking the cycle of violence and child abuse to which they were subjected. The tournament was also a major underwriter of the Sinatras’ pledge that no child is ever turned away from the Center because of an inability to pay.
Sadly, changes in the golf tournament had been planned long before Barbara Sinatra’s death. Gone was the tradition of holding the tournament in February of each year; this year’s tournament has been moved forward to Dec. 10-12. Another significant change is that the tournament will no longer be held at the Eagle Falls Golf Course at the Fantasy Springs Resort in Indio; play has been shifted to the more prestigious, and private, Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert.
But perhaps the most significant change to the Sinatra tournament is lack of celebrities. Until fairly recently, the “Sinatra” as the event was called by Desert dwellers and golfers, alike, could be counted on to have several dozen celebrities from the worlds of Hollywood and sports accepting an invitation to participate in an all-expense-paid fun weekend in the Desert ending in a black-tie gala on the tournament’s last night featuring headliners such as Tony Bennett, Jay Leno and Mr. Blue-eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.
The handwriting, however, was on the wall. The celebrities that used to come were either not around anymore, or they were no longer capable of playing two rounds of golf in two days and it became difficult to attract the quality of celebrity that gave the event its unique cache for decades. And, believe it or not, some of the celebrities did not like the virtually open access with the public, as the tournament was known as being a camera- and autography-ready event.
So it’s out with a focus on celebrity participants, and no longer will the event be “invitational.” If you make an appropriate gift to the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center in Rancho Mirage, you will be assured of a spot.
Hopefully, one thing will not change. Comedian Tom Dreesen, who used to open for Sinatra, has been the emcee of the tournament for the past three decades. Never having missed a year, Dreesen’s future with the Sinatra tournament is uncertain. Other than the Sinatras, his not having a continuing part at the gala and pre-events would create the biggest void.
One change that’s appropriate is the tournament’s new name: the Barbara and Frank Sinatra Classic. Hopefully, it will be a name that’s around for an equally long time as its predecessor.