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One of the men who helped turn California's Coachella Valley into a national golf hub, Ernie Vossler, died Saturday afternoon at his La Quinta home at age 84.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Vossler joined the PGA Tour in 1955 and won three titles between 1958 and 1960. After leaving the Tour he became a club pro at famed Southern Hills in Tulsa, and later Quail Creek in Oklahoma City.
Starting in 1971, he shifted his focus to golf-course development; the late Joe Walser and Johnny Pott were two of his business partners, and both also played on the PGA Tour.
In 1971, Walser and Vossler founded Unique Golf Concepts, Inc. and began developing golf communities. They hired Pott, and initiated Marsh Island Golf Club in Ocean Springs, Miss., Cardinal Club in Greensboro, N.C., and Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla., which hosted the 1988 PGA Championship and will be the site of the 2014 U.S. Senior Open.
In 1974 Unique Golf Concepts was acquired by Landmark Land Company, and Vossler and Walser shifted their focus to California's desert. They developed the first four courses at PGA West in La Quinta, all three courses at La Quinta Resort, two courses at Westin Mission Hills Resort in Rancho Mirage, and one of the three courses at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.
Vossler used his connections with PGA Tour players to promote his new developments. "He utilized the strength and connections of the PGA pro," golf professional J.D. Ebersberger, former vice president of golf operations at PGA West, told Golfweek's James Achenbach. "It was ingenious. The pros helped him sell the property, and it went lickety-split. Then he would give them a membership."
Vossler and Walser also became quite skilled at utilizing television - a relatively new golf medium at the time - to draw attention to their projects in the Palm Springs area. They brought the Bob Hope Classic to PGA West in 1987 as well as the Skins Game there for six years starting in 1986, helping the Coachella Valley become one of the places to play and live in the West.
Vossler became a member of the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame in 2005. His wife of 18 years, Marlene Hagge-Vossler, is a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame.
Memorial services are pending.