‘The Dinah Shore’ celebrates 50 years as Dinah’s legacy still shines


A statue of Dinah Shore overlooks the 18th green at Mission Hills Country Club. The inscription on the base is both accurate and to the point: The first lady of golf.

Fifty years ago, at a time when women’s golf was nothing more than a tiny speck on a broad sports map, Shore became the LPGA’s most vocal advocate in her role as host of the tour’s most popular tournament.

People of a certain age remember Shore as the first female singer to truly break out on her own during the “big band” era. She had 80 hits, including four No. 1 singles. By the 1970s, she had pivoted to television, and hosted her own show on NBC, which was sponsored by Colgate. When Colgate president David Foster approached Shore and asked if she wanted to host their new sports venture, she assumed it was a tennis tournament.

“And he said, ‘No, no, no. This is golf,’” recalled 3-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Hollis Stacy.

Shore signed on, and went all in.

Dinah Shore’s legacy lives on at Chevron Champ.

The inaugural Colgate-Dinah Shore Women’s Circle was held in 1972, at Mission Hills Country Club, in Rancho Mirage, California.

From the beginning, Colgate leaned into Shore’s appeal. They put her name on the tournament, and just about everything else. The shuttle buses. The standard bearers. And the leaderboards stationed throughout the course.

During the tournament, she was seemingly everywhere, all at once. Early in the week, she hosted what became known as, “Dinner with Dinah.” She’d sing a few songs, and so would a few of her friends. “And of course, some of her best friends were people like Frank Sinatra,” said Larry Bohannan, who has covered the tournament for 36 years at The Desert Sun.

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The pro-am served as an important draw. With Hollywood just a short drive away, the field included, among others, Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Glen Campbell.

“Dinah’s name was just huge in the film industry,” said Stacy. “I played with people in the pro-am, and I had no idea how famous they were.”

In 1973, a highlight film documented the celebrity hijinks.

“Do you get mulligans,” Campbell asked to no one in particular on the practice green. “That’s what I read in the paper,” Sinatra replied. He could have used one on the first tee. “Oh, I screwed it up,” he said.

In another scene from the film, Shore acts surprised to see such a large turnout gathered around her near the clubhouse. “I would have combed my hair if I’d known you all were going to be here,” she says with a chuckle. “Or baked a cake or something.”

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Shore even enlisted Arnold Palmer to film a promotional video. As Palmer tees off, the camera pushes in, and Shore walks into frame. “Women’s golf is really getting exciting to watch,” Palmer says. “Your tournament has had a great deal to do with that.” On cue, Shore smiles, then delivers the tagline. “Are you going to watch?”

In those early years, it was one of the few LPGA tournaments broadcast on television, first on the Hughes Sports Network then later on ABC and NBC. Shore, as ever, knew where to find the red light, and made frequent appearances in the television booth alongside Jim McKay, Chris Schenkel and Byron Nelson. In one appearance, McKay introduced her as a good friend and the “perfect hostess.” Moments later, Shore suggested that the players should receive a “rain check” if foul weather delayed play. A bogey, to be sure, but delivered with her usual charm. McKay chuckled. And the party rolled on.

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Shore supplied the celebrity cachet. Colgate provided the financial backing.

Their commitment to women’s golf didn’t end when the final putt was holed at Mission Hills each year. They sponsored other tournaments and featured several players in commercials that aired nationwide. Laura Baugh pitched a toothpaste that promised whiter looking teeth were “just one tube away.” Carol Mann, equipped with Ajax laundry detergent, came to the aid of a friend who spilled soda on her pants. And Judy Rankin, the 1976 champion, crawled through a pipe with her young son in tow to demonstrate the cleaning power of Fab with Borax.

“Those commercials were great,” Rankin said. “And they introduced us to the public in a completely different way. It’s so funny how some people never watch golf, but they’d see you in this commercial.

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For the players, though, the bottom line was the bottom line. In 1972, the inaugural Colgate-Dinah Shore Winner’s Circle was the LPGA’s only $100,000 purse. By 1983, when it became an official major, all 33 of the LPGA’s tournaments offered purses of $100,000 or more.

Although Shore passed away in 1994, many of today’s current LPGA players refer to the many iterations of the tournament by a single name.

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“Most people that I know still call it the Dinah Shore,” said Morgan Pressel, who won the tournament in 2007. “She has had that much of an impact on this event and on women’s golf.”

This week, the tournament’s golden anniversary will double as it’s swansong.

Next year, the Chevron Championship will relocate to Texas. It will offer one of the largest purses on the LPGA and network television exposure, two key elements that Dinah’s tournament provided all those years ago.

The party will continue, just not as Mission Hills. But the statue of golf’s first lady remains. And the memories live on.



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