When Rickie Fowler won the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit on July 2, ending a four-year winless drought, the cheers for one of the game’s most popular players could almost be heard from the Murrieta Valley Golf Range, about 90 minutes south of Los Angeles. .
It was here that Fowler, 34, first learned the game as a child. His grandfather, Yutaka, spent every Wednesday with his first grandson and would take him to the area, which opened in 1992, and let him bang away. A passion for the game was forged in the natural grass coves in the shadow of the Santa Ana Mountains, and this is where Fowler spent more and more of his formative years.
“My dad used to deliver the sand for maintenance and gravel for the parking lot in exchange for me hitting balls,” Fowler said.
30 years later, Fowler fulfilled his boyhood dream, becoming owner of the series earlier this year. In between watching tennis at Wimbledon and playing Sunningdale Golf Club in London with Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas ahead of this week’s Genesis Scottish Open at the Renaissance Club, Fowler shared Golf week how much his childhood reach meant to him.
“I always wanted the range to exist and for it to be open to the next generation,” Fowler wrote in an email. “I wanted kids to have the same opportunity as me if they were interested.”
Bill Teasdall, a former mini-tour player, found the land, leased the 15-acre property and opened the 50-bar, where 90 balls still cost just $12 and included a teaching area for his best friend, Barry McDonnell.
“When we opened, Barry said to me, ‘Bill, we’ve got the perfect place to practice. Now I just need a young kid with some talent, and I’m going to take him all the way to the Tour,'” Teasdall told PGA Tour.com in 2016. “And Rick showed up two months later.”
“When Rickie is 20, if I do my job, he’ll have the perfect golf mind and he won’t even know where he’s at,” Teasdall quoted McDonnell as saying.
Teasdall wasn’t the only one he bragged about his little girl. Whenever someone asked McDonnell if he had any talented prospects he was working with, he gave a stock answer: “Well, there is one. But he’s only 11. You’ll know his name in time.”
Fowler’s mother, Lynn, was the first to share with Teasdall her son’s dream of one day owning the driving range. She mentioned it at a high school tournament in the 2006-07 season when they were walking along a fairway.
“When he decided to retire, I wanted to be able to step in to make sure the range remained,” Fowler said in an email. “It was also provided that I was successful enough on the golf course.”
Practicing regularly on the driving range under McDonnell’s watchful eye, Fowler became a scratch golfer with 12. McDonnell died in May 2011, just months after Fowler was named Rookie of the Year. He was spot on about Fowler, who reached No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking in the winter of 2016 and has won six times on the PGA Tour, including the 2015 Players Championship. Along the way, he also never forgot where he came from or his dream of making sure the Murrieta Valley Driving Range remained intact.
“I’ll be damned, Rick went and won the Players Championship and I get a phone call from his agent telling me that Rick is going to buy this place when I’m ready to retire,” Teasdall told The Athletic .
That date was too early for Teasdall to call it a day, but around 2019 he was ready. The sale was delayed by the global pandemic, but they reached an agreement in November and the sale was completed in January.
“It’s been in the works for a few years as the land is owned by a family and Bill leased it from them,” Fowler explained. “We had to make sure we were going to be able to continue that lease long enough and it wasn’t going to be ripped out from under us.”
“He did what everyone who grew up hitting balls on a court imagines they might do one day,” wrote Brendan Quinn, who first reported the sale, in The Athletic. “In a world that has made him one of this game’s most public figures, he kept where he is. It’s as real as it gets.”
Fowler said he has hired KemperSports, a golf hospitality management company, to help with the “week-to-week business stuff,” but doesn’t want to make any household changes. In fact, Teasdall is still a regular presence there, as is Lisa D’Hondt, who has worked the front counter for nearly 30 years.
“I wanted to keep the range as it always has been,” Fowler said in an email. “Many of the people who were there when I was growing up are still the ones who run it day to day. We all share the same vision and I’m looking forward to when this season settles down to be able to use some more time with everyone involved to discuss our current and future plans for the improvements to the range.”
Keeping it straight so he can always return to the place where Fowler feels most at home – on his range.