Hall of Fame Golfers Who Played at El Rio
(in order of date inducted)

Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Walter Hagen*

Ben Hogan

Byron Nelson

Arnold Palmer

Gary Player

Sam Snead

Bobby Locke

Billy Casper

Bing Crosby

Julius Boros

Bob Hope

Jimmy Demaret

Cary Middlecoff

Peter Thomson

Roberto De Vicenzo

Gene Littler

Lloyd Mangrum

Jack Burke, Jr.

Tommy Bolt

Leo Diegel
Founder of the Tucson Open

Charlie Sifford

Sir Bob Charles

Denny Shute

Craig Wood

Ken Venturi
*Played an exhibition match in Tucson, probably at El Rio but it has not yet been confirmed.

Other Notable Golfers Who Have Played at El Rio
(in alphabetical order)
  • Tommy Aaron - Won the Masters in 1973.
  • Peter Aliss - Expert golf commentator for ABC sports. During his pro career, he won 3 British PGA Championships, played on 8 Ryder Cup teams, 10 World Cup teams and won 23 tournaments, including two Spanish Opens, one Italian, one Portuguese and one Brazilian. During his career of over 20 years, he spent only 6 weeks on the American tour during which time he played at El Rio. HALL OF FAME MEMBER
  • Desi Arnaz - Huge star.
  • Butch Baird - Winner of 13 events worldwide and the father of Briny Baird.
  • Al Balding - Accomplished Canadian golfer, he won the 2000 Canadian PGA Senior title at the age of 76.
  • Jerry Barber - 1961 PGA champion.
  • Miller Barber - Winner of 11 PGA Tour events and 5 major senior titles.
  • Frank Beard - 11 PGA Tour wins and two-time Ryder Cup team member.
  • Gay Brewer - 1967 Masters champion.
  • John Brodie - San Francisco 49ers football star.
  • Walter Burkemo - Winner of the 1953 PGA Championship.
  • Sam Byrd - N.Y. Yankees outfielder known as "Babe Ruth's Legs" because he often replaced the aging Ruth in later innings. He went on to become a professional golfer and won 23 titles.
  • Bruce Crampton - 14 career PGA wins.
  • Bob Crosby - Singer, bandleader, movie and TV star.
  • Dizzy Dean - Legendary baseball pitcher.
  • Gardner Dickinson - A founder of the Seniors Tour, he won 7 times on the PGA Tour. He was very successful in Ryder Cup play with a record of 9-1-0.
  • Sean Elliot - NBA basketball star and TV commentator (still plays at El Rio).
  • Jamie Farr - Star of M*A*S*H.
  • Max Faulkner - English golfer who won the British Open in 1951 and played on 5 Ryder Cup teams.
  • Jim Ferrier - 1947 PGA champion.
  • Dow Finsterwald - 11 PGA Tour wins including the 1958 PGA Championship.
  • Jack Fleck - Defeated Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff in 1955 to win one of the most memorable U.S. Opens in history. Also won the 1979 Seniors PGA Championship.
  • Doug Ford - 19 PGA Tour wins including the 1955 PGA Championship and the 1957 Masters. HALL OF FAME MEMBER
  • Ed Furgol - U.S. Open champion and Player of the Year in 1954.
  • Bobby Gaona - Resident of Barrio Hollywood (the neighborhood adjoining El Rio) who caddied at El Rio Country Club in the 1950s and early 1960s, learned the game and went on to become a professional golfer.
  • James Garner - TV and movie star.
  • Al Geiberger - 11 PGA Tour victories including the 1966 PGA Championship. He was the first to shoot a 59 in PGA Tournament play, at the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic on June 10, 1977.
  • Bob Goalby - Winner of 11 PGA Tour titles including the 1968 Masters.
  • Vic Ghezzi - Won 11 times on the PGA Tour including the 1941 PGA Championship.
  • Ralph Guldahl - Winner of the U.S. Open in 1937 and 1938 and the Masters in 1939. He was the last player to win a PGA Tour event as a teenager (the 1931 Santa Monica Open) until Jordan Spieth did it 82 years later (the 2013 John Deere Classic). HALL OF FAME MEMBER
  • Fred Haas, Jr. - Won 5 PGA Tour events as well as the 1966 Senior PGA Championship. His first victory, winning the 1945 Memphis Invitational as an amateur, broke Byron Nelson's streak of 11 consecutive wins that year.
  • Bob Hamilton - 1944 PGA champion.
  • Greg Hansen - Sports columnist for The Arizona Daily Star who plays at El Rio on a regular basis.
  • Claude Harmon - Won the Masters in 1948. He was the last club pro to win a major, having been the head pro at Winged Foot. Father of well-known golf instructors Butch and Dick Harmon.
  • Chandler Harper - Winner of 11 PGA Tour titles including the 1950 PGA Championship.
  • Phil Harris - Bandleader, radio, movie and TV star.
  • E.J. "Dutch" Harrison - 18 PGA Tour wins during a career spanning over 4 decades.
  • Jay Hebert - 1960 PGA champion, played on two Ryder Cup teams and captained another. Brother of Lionel Hebert.
  • Lionel Hebert - Winner of 6 PGA titles including the 1957 PGA Championship. Brother of Jay Hebert.
  • Dave Hill - Had 13 career PGA Tour wins and played on 3 Ryder Cup teams.
  • Don January - 10 PGA Tour titles including the 1967 PGA Championship and 20 Champions Tour titles including two Senior PGA Championships.
  • Vance Johnson - Denver Broncos wide receiver who made 3 Super Bowl appearances in the 1980s.
  • Edgar Kennedy - Famous comedian who was one of the original Keystone Cops, worked with Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and many others, and appeared in over 500 films.
  • Joe Kirkwood, Jr. - Pro golfer from Australia who also played the role of boxer Joe Palooka in 19 movies and the TV series. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • George Knudson - Had 8 PGA Tour career victories, the most of any Canadian ever. At least, he held this distinction for 35 years (since 1972) until it was equalled by Canadian Mike Weir who won his 8th PGA tour event at the Fry's Electronics Open in Scottsdale, Arizona on October 21, 2007.
  • Kris Kristofferson - Singer and actor.
  • Ted Kroll - 8 PGA Tour victories and played on 3 Ryder Cup teams.
  • "Champagne" Tony Lema - Winner of 12 PGA Tour events including the 1964 British Open at St. Andrews. He and his wife were killed in 1966 when their chartered airplane ran out of fuel and crashed on the 7th hole of a golf course in Illinois.
  • Kenny Lofton - Six-time All-Star major league baseball player and U of A basketball standout.
  • Joe Louis - Heavyweight Champion of the World 1937-1949. See photo on main page.
  • Lawson Little - Won the British and U.S. Amateur Championships in both 1934 and 1935 and, after turning pro, the 1940 U.S. Open. He was a 2006 honoree at Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament. HALL OF FAME MEMBER
  • Davis Love, Jr. - Golf instructor and father of Davis Love III.
  • Dave Marr - 1965 PGA champion and TV golf analyst.
  • Harpo Marx - Comic genius.
  • Don Massengale - Finished second in the 1967 PGA Championship by losing to Don January in an 18-hole playoff.
  • Dick Mayer - Winner of the 1957 U.S. Open at Inverness Club.
  • Harold "Jug" McSpaden - 17 career wins, he competed on the Champions Tour until the age of 85 and holds the record for the oldest player to better his age in a Champions Tour event. In 1945, while Byron Nelson won 18 tournaments, McSpaden had 13 runner-up finishes and set a Tour record with 31 top-tens.
  • Dick Metz - 10 career PGA Tour wins, plus the 1960 Senior PGA Championship.
  • Willie Nelson - Legendary singer.
  • Bobby Nichols - Won 11 PGA Tour events, including the 1964 PGA Championship.
  • Johnny Palmer - 8 PGA Tour victories and played on a winning Ryder Cup team.
  • Johnny Revolta - 18 career PGA Tour wins including the 1935 PGA Championship.
  • Phil Rodgers - Won the 1962 L.A. Open by 9 strokes.
  • Bob Rosburg - 1959 PGA Champion and long-time TV golf commentator.
  • Doug Sanders - 20 career PGA Tour victories.
  • Randolph Scott - Legendary film star.
  • Mike Souchak - 15 career wins on the PGA Tour and played on 2 Ryder Cup teams. He held the 72-hole PGA scoring record (257 in the 1955 Texas Open) for nearly 50 years.
  • Bob Toski - Well-known golf instructor and TV analyst, a member of the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame.
  • Jim Turnesa - Winner of the 1952 PGA Championship.
  • Art Wall, Jr. - Had 14 PGA Tour wins including the 1959 Masters and was 1959 Player of the Year.
  • Lew Worsham - 1947 U.S. Open champion.
  • George Zaharias - Professional wrestler and husband of Babe Didrikson Zaharias.

Well-known golf people who attended the University of Arizona and/or are from Tucson
It's unknown whether they ever played at El Rio, but it's certainly possible:

Annika Sorenstam
Jim Furyk
Lorena Ochoa
Rory Sabbatini
Ricky Barnes
Natalie Gulbis
Dan Hicks
Dan Pohl

There may be more.....

Celebrities who are known to have been at El Rio
but it's unknown whether they actually played the course:

Alice Faye
Clarke Gable
Rogers Hornsby
Robert Montgomery
Anthony Quinn
The Navy Blue Angels*

*In the late 1970s I saw them fly over the course so low that I could see the pilots in the cockpits. I could have sworn I could even see their faces. They did not stop to play the course, though.

A knowledgeable source once told me that "Presidents and astronauts" have played at El Rio. Details of neither have been confirmed, although Buzz Aldrin (second man to walk on the moon) did attend the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Did Lee Trevino every play in the Tucson Open at El Rio? It's funny, but at least 3 different people have told me that they saw Trevino play in the Tucson Open at El Rio, and there's even a photo of him on the El Rio Wall of Fame, but it simply never happened. The Tucson Open was last played at El Rio in 1962. Lee Trevino started playing on the PGA Tour in 1967. In my research, I found complete field listings for every year the Tucson Open was played at El Rio, and Lee Trevino's name never appeared in any of them. He did play in numerous Tucson Opens, but never at El Rio.

Other possibilities: Some notable players attended the University of Arizona including Annika Sorenstam, Jim Furyk, Don Pooley, Dan Pohl, Robert Gamez, Rory Sabbatini, Natalie Gulbis and Lorena Ochoa. NBC golf commentator Dan Hicks is from Tucson and once worked at KCEE radio with studios located near El Rio at the time. It is possible that one or more of these played at El Rio at some point during their years in Tucson, but that is also unconfirmed.