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PGA Seniors Tour Swings Out to Simi Valley

Times Staff Writer

When members of the PGA Seniors Tour converge on Wood Ranch golf course next year, they will tee off in front of large galleries of appreciative golf fans, grateful for the chance to witness a major sporting event in their own back yard.

At least that’s the view of Wood Ranch and Johnny Mathis Seniors tournament officials, who announced Friday that the private course in Simi Valley will be the site of next year’s Johnny Mathis event.

The tournament has been moved from MountainGate Country Club, which played home to the first two Mathis tournaments. Dan Rainey, general manager of MountainGate, refused to comment Friday about the move.

This year’s tournament was completed last weekend at MountainGate, with Tour newcomer Dale Douglass winning the $250,000 event.

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No contract has been signed for the 1987 tournament, but the parties have agreed in principle and should have a signed document by 10 a.m. Tuesday when Wood Ranch and tournament representatives will officially announce the agreement. A press conference is scheduled at Wood Ranch, according to tournament director Tom Hebert.

“We haven’t inked a contract, but everything is agreed upon,” Hebert said. “We’re going to Wood Ranch.”

Hebert and Bernie Jensen represent BPJ Enterprises, the tournament sponsor. Both cited Wood Ranch’s location as a key element in making the move to Simi Valley.

“The competition for the sports dollar in Los Angeles is very stiff,” Hebert said. “We think that the community interest in that area is such that we’ll get the kind of crowds that these great golfers deserve.”

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Jensen agreed, saying, “We’re looking forward to going to a new community that is getting a major sporting event. We expect the community to come out and see these legends of golf. They’re due a major event.”

Buzz Gill has been the president of Wood Ranch since it opened in January 1985 and is a Thousand Oaks resident. He expects Simi Valley and Conejo Valley area residents to support the tournament.

“That’s why we went after the tournament,” he said. “We’ve never had a a big sporting event out here. We have a great golf course with easy freeway access, and the Seniors Tour can’t do anything but grow with the players they have and the players they’re going to have.”

Gill invited a dozen seniors out to the par-72, 6,530-yard course last week for a round of golf before the Mathis event, a ploy that helped sell the seniors on the course.

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“That definitely helped us,” Gill said. “They thought it was a good test. You don’t have to power the course; you have to play placement golf, true point to point golf. A true champion can be decided on this course.”


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