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Valdespino Course brought back many memories for Ray Sanchez after a recent game there.

In 1951, a printer at The El Paso Herald-Post, Bill Silver, invited me to take up golf at what was then called Valdespino Course.

I was a young, rookie sports writer at The El Paso Herald-Post then, and I didn’t know what I was getting into. I fell in love with the most exasperating, unforgiving sport ever invented – and am still playing it in my advanced age.

I’ll never forgive Bill Silver. You never know what you’re going to do in golf. You can go along hitting the ball well, and suddenly a bad shot pops up. Even the pros do it.

I  PLAYED THE former Valdespino Course last week and it was eerie.

Named for its builder, A. S. Valdespino, the course was taken over by the U.S. Army in 1955 when the Ascarate Municipal Golf Course was built.

Eventually, Fort Bliss added another 18 holes and it became known as the Underwood Golf Complex.

The former Valdespino Course was renamed The Sunset Course and the new 18-holes became known as the Sunrise Course.

For old times sake, I chose to play the former Valdespino Course last week.

LIKE I SAY, it was an eerie experience. First of all, it brought memories of when I was in my 20s. I could hit the ball more than 200 yards and I could reach all the par 4s in two.

Because of my age, I no longer can.

More than that, it brought back memories of the many tournaments I covered as a sports writer there. Amateur golf was the rage in the 1950s, and the City Tournament was the biggest tournament of all.

Frank Redman, a well-dressed handsome man, won the city title a record seven times. He was friendly off the course, but oh, did he have a temper when he was playing.

He didn’t mind throwing clubs. I remember one instance where he threw his putter into the sky and it got stuck in a tree. He had to finish the round using an iron for a putter.

REDMAN’S MOST prominent opponent was an almost opposite. That was Manny Martinez, who came out of the Southside of El Paso and was working at Asarco.

As I wrote in my book, “The Good, The Bad and the Funny of El Paso Sports History,” Martinez “was a rugged-looking fellow with a self-learned swing few would want to copy.

But he was as gritty a competitor as they come and he broke through Redman’s dominance to win the city championship three times.”

BY THE WAY, Texas Western College (now UTEP) had a golf team after World War II ended in 1945. Both Redman and Fred Hawkins were on the team.

Professional golf was but a faraway dream for most El Paso amateur golfers in the 1950s, but Hawkins, a transplanted El Pasoan, decided to give it a try.

He became the first ex-Miner to win a PGA tournament. In fact, he won two PGA events, the Cavalier Open in 1950 and the Oklahoma Open in 1956.

In a couple of memorable meets, he missed a putt when it rimmed the cup in the Masters that would have tied Arnold Palmer and Hawkins tied the immortal Ben Hogan to force a playoff in the Colonial Invitational. In the playoff the next day, the wind was howling at 35 miles per hour. Hogan, playing on his home course, shot a 69 and Hawkins a 73.

BUT I DIVERT from the premise of this column. It’s about my re-living my youth.

I had played the new Sunrise Course before but not the older course known as Valdespino but now known as Sunset Course in more than 60 years.

Playing there brought so many happy memories and a somewhat weird sensation.


Veteran sports journalist, historian and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column.  Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by email at rayf358@yahoo.com or online at raysanchezbooks.com.

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