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Reagan legacy linked to Moorpark links

The 11th hole at Tierra Rejada Golf Course is named for the late president. The tee commands a sweeping view that includes the Reagan Library on a hilltop in nearby Simi Valley.

November 15, 2012|By Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times
  • A plaque in honor of former President Reagan is located near the tee box on the 11th hole at the Tierra Rejada Golf Course in Moorpark.
A plaque in honor of former President Reagan is located near the tee box on… (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles…)

In the eight years since he died, Ronald Reagan has lent his name to at least 31 roads, 17 schools, a federal courthouse in Orange County, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier based in San Diego, a missile-testing range in the Marshall Islands and now, a golf hole in Moorpark.

It's the par-three 11th hole at Tierra Rejada Golf Course, where the tee commands a sweeping view that includes the Reagan Library on a hilltop in nearby Simi Valley.

Course officials and Reagan Foundation executives on Thursday unveiled a plaque set in a rock monument and dedicated to the 40th president, "who always believed, like golfers do, 'Our most glorious achievements are just ahead.' "

Taken from his speech at the 1992 Republican convention, the trademark ray of Reagan sunshine is not misplaced on the 210-yard hole, which requires golfers to loft their first shot over a cliff.

"This is the right place for it," said Ted Kruger, the club's co-owner, as he gazed across the sage-studded valley at the library and its Air Force One pavilion. "Here we are up on this hill and there they are up on their hill. It took me 10 or 11 years to realize we should be closer."

By all accounts, the hole is the only one anywhere dedicated to a U.S. president, although 15 of the last 18 chief executives have tested themselves on the links. A tree at the Augusta National Golf Course is named after Dwight D. Eisenhower. And a terrace at the Los Angeles Country Club bears Reagan's name — one of the few naming opportunities endorsed by the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising organization he created to pass on his legacy.

"We don't officially lend the name to many people," said John Shaw, the foundation's chief development officer.

That hasn't stopped Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist, who founded the Reagan Legacy Foundation to get the Great Communicator's name on a school, hospital, highway, mountain or other landmark in every U.S. county.

John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. are each honored with some 800 such tributes, while Reagan fans have 108, Norquist said in an interview Thursday.

"Only when we reach 800 can we begin to ask whether it's enough," said Norquist, who has jokingly proposed applying the Reagan name to Puerto Rico or either of the Dakotas.

He said the Tierra Rejada hole will provide "a fascinating teaching moment" for golfers. Some of the duffers will have driven the Ronald Reagan Freeway to gaze at the Reagan library from the Ronald Reagan hole, but an abundance of reminders will not dim Reagan's luster: "Nobody will be able to play that hole without commenting," Norquist said.

In 1942, Reagan and his then-wife Jane Wyman made an 11-minute feature called "Shoot Yourself Some Golf." But that was the closest his game came to immortality. He "didn't play well or often," according to Golf Digest magazine, which said his best score was in the low 90s.

The top presidential golfer is said to have been John F. Kennedy, but none was more enthusiastic than portly William Howard Taft, whose appetite for the game was legendary. The number of golfers on public courses doubled, thanks to testimonials from Taft, who was warned by predecessor Theodore Roosevelt about loving it too much.

Golf was scorned as an effete, rich man's game, and Roosevelt told Taft in a letter that he'd heard from "hundreds of Westerners" who objected to Taft's public embrace of it. It was bad for one's manly image, argued the former Rough Rider.

"Photographs of me on horseback — yes," Roosevelt wrote. "Tennis no, and golf is fatal."

steve.chawkins@latimes.com

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