One of the hot topics in the locker room last week was the
one-year break the Nissan Open will take from Riviera next
season so the course can rest up for the '98 U.S. Senior Open in
July. I don't know whether to feel happy or sad. I grew up in
L.A., and Riviera has been a big part of my life. As a kid I
never missed the tournament, and later, when I was a member of
the UCLA team, we were allowed to play the course once a week.
Now, as a pro, Riviera is my favorite Tour stop.
On the other hand, the tournament is moving to my home course,
the Big V, Valencia Country Club. I was 11 when my dad first
took me there. I was awful. I must have hit a dozen balls into
the drink. I'm sure I didn't break 70--on either nine--but I
loved the course. The fact that it's across the street from
Magic Mountain, the amusement park where my dad also took me a
lot, might have been part of the reason. (Today my favorite
nearby attraction is Jimmy Dean's, a burger joint that has a
terrific bean-and-cheese burrito.)
After I graduated from UCLA in 1985, Valencia also played a key
role in my pro career. The first stage of the '86 Q school was
at Valencia. I was playing badly in the third round when we
reached the 9th hole, an easy 512-yard par-5. I made eagle, shot
67 and finished third. I went on to get my Tour card. I consider
that hole one of the most important of my career.
Although Valencia opened in 1965, it's one of L.A.'s best-kept
secrets because it's off the beaten path, about 25 miles up the
freeway from Riviera. Designed by Robert Trent Jones during his
Big Is Better phase, the course has hosted U.S. Open and Amateur
qualifiers plus a slew of mini-tour and college events. Valencia
was public--and crowded--until 1987, when a new owner, Uniden, a
Japanese communications company, turned the course into a
private club. I was granted playing privileges in 1991. That's
one of the great things about being a Tour pro--no green fees.
Everything at Valencia is big--bunkers, greens, water hazards,
even the trees. I don't usually play from the championship tees
(7,105 yards) because the course is plenty long from the blues
(6,681). The best holes are the four monster par-3s. The hardest
is the third, which has water all the way down the right side.
The hole is 180 yards from the blues, but 237 from the
championship tee. Valencia's also a tough driving course because
six par-4s dogleg to the right and are at least 390 yards long.
Nothing can take the place of a classic like Riviera, but
Valencia's a solid substitute. I'll sure be smiling when I tee
it up there next year. It's not often you get a home-course
James Joseph (Duffy) Waldorf Jr. won the 1995 Texas Open.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Valencia has killer par-3s, like the 3rd. [3rd hole at Valencia Country Club golf course]