Many winners of the 10-and-Under Division at Presidio Hills have become household names: Lorena Ochoa (1990–1992); Mickelson (1980); William “Billy” Mayfair (1976); and Woods, who criticized the design of #15 the first time he played — and signed the wrong scorecard and was disqualified. He won the division in 1984 and 1985.
Just some of the golfers who learned the game at Presidio Hills: Craig Stadler (Masters champion) and son Kevin, Scott Simpson (U.S. Open champion), Lon Hinkle and sister Jennie, Mark Wiebe, Chuck Courtney, Morris Hatalsky, Chris Riley, Pat Perez. Phil Rodgers, the 1958 NCAA champion, aced #16 when he was ten years old. Not long before, Al Abrego ordered him to tape a pencil down the brim of his baseball cap, then “point the pencil at the ball and never take it off there.”
Al Abrego died in 1976. He was 96. He passed down another tradition: three generations of Abregos, each a “master instructor,” ran the course for 71 years. Don Abrego, Al’s son, began teaching in the 1940s and took over in the ’60s. Don’s daughter, Donna (whose mother “was picking up range balls on the night I was born”) began teaching in 1972; she ran the course from 1986 to 2003. During her tenure, Presidio Hills was the only local course with teachers exclusively from the LPGA: Donna, Debbie Skinner, Jennie Hinkle, and Rosanne Isom — all students of Al and Don Abrego.
Al Abrego gave history as well as golf lessons. He’d point to the Casa Carrillo, Presidio Hill, or the former native village of Cosoy and retell their stories. One question persisted for decades: Who is more accurate, a golfer or a Native American with bow and arrow? Around the time Littler won the Open, the “Grinders” — regulars at the course — had a challenge match: short irons and a golf ball versus skilled bowmen. No contest. Even against players with scratch short games, the bows won by a wide margin. On the 100-yard fifth, an arrow almost did a Robin Hood: split the pin on the fly.
The Grinders played the course almost every day. A list of names from 1932 to 1979, says Donna Abrego, “is the history of San Diego golf.”
The late Barry Fraser, a British gent and a sage golf instructor, would have qualified as a Grinder. Though in his late 70s, he “headed for the Hills” every chance he could. When someone asked why, he replied: “Here you will learn to chip and putt, to score, to handle adversity, and — possibly as difficult — to handle success: in other words, how to accept the occasional good graces of Dame Fortune.” ■
— Jeff Smith
- On the original scorecard: “Lord give me grace to make a score so low that even I, when talking of it afterwards, may never need to lie.”
- Most holes-in-one: Jim East, who took out a policy from Lloyd’s of London “to help relieve the expense of being a lucky ace-maker.”
- Official course records: Men–40, Bert Grove, Frank Young; Women–43, Margaret Hope (which beats my 44, shot in 2009 under the stern, watchful eye of the late Barry Fraser).
Abrego, Donna, personal scrapbooks; interview.
Carrico, Richard, “Portola’s 1769 Expedition and Coastal Native Villages,” Journal of California Anthropology 4, Winter 1977.
Marston, George, “Presidio Park: A Statement of George W. Marston in 1942,” Journal of San Diego History, Spring 1986, vol. 32, number 2.
Marston, Mary Gilman, George White Marston: A Family Chronicle, San Diego, 1956.
Shinn, Charles Howard, “Pioneer Spanish Families of California,” Journal of San Diego History, June 1965, vol. 11, number 3.
West, Norrie, 100 Years of Golf in San Diego County, San Diego, 1997.
Articles in the San Diego Union, the Tribune, the Sun, and the Los Angeles Times.