For more than a century, Wilshire Country Club has brought together the biggest names in show business and sport. Nestled in the heart of Los Angeles, near the base of Mount Lee, the Club offers up fantastic views of the Hollywood sign as if to say only the most famous people in the world play here.
Decades before the LPGA Tour added a Tour stop at the Club it hosted the stars of a bygone era, the kind featured in black and white films on Turner Classic Movies. Stars like Katharine Hepburn, a four-time Oscar winner, who was also an avid golfer.
Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1907, Hepburn was a natural born athlete. She played numerous sports as a young girl, including tennis and golf. Both of which made her a champion. The Hepburns spent their summers at Fenwick Golf Club in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. The course is the oldest public course in the state and her family had a home on the second hole. As a teen, Hepburn took daily lessons at Hartford Golf Club. She often shot in the low 80s and advanced to the semi-finals of the Connecticut Young Women’s Golf Championship.
When Hepburn’s acting career took her west to California, she continued to play. She lived on the 14th hole at Bel-Air Country Club, just 30-minutes from Wilshire. And the stories of her being courted by Howard Hughes, the business tycoon and film producer who was also an avid golfer, has become the stuff of legend.
As the story goes, Hughes, who was also a pilot, was late for a date with Hepburn. So, he landed his Sikorsky amphibious plane on the eighth or ninth fairway at Bel-Air, where Hepburn was in the midst of a round. Hughes, who exited the plane with his golf bag in tow, insisted on completing the round alongside her. The pair never married. Hepburn was briefly married to a Philadelphia businessman whom she divorced in 1941. She was often linked to her Spencer Tracy, her co-star in nine films.
Riviera Country Club was another popular stomping ground for celebrities, including Hepburn. Since 1973, Riviera has been a regular stop for the PGA Tour. Inside the clubhouse hangs a photo of Hepburn. The black and white image features the star wearing a long dark skirt, which lands mid-calf, along with a short sleeve argyle sweater and saddle shoes. She’s waggling a golf club. In 2017, during the PGA Tour’s visit, Padraig Harrington was photographed looking at the photo of Hepburn and reportedly admired her grip.
In 1952, Hepburn’s golfing prowess came in handy. That year, she starred alongside Tracy in Pat and Mike, a film in which she played a golf and tennis champion. The movie was filmed at Riviera Country Club and also featured LPGA members Babe Zaharias, Beverly Hanson, Betty Hicks and Helen Dettweiler.
Pat and Mike was one of Hepburn’s 53 film credits. She was nominated for 12 Oscars and won four. She also won an Emmy. In 1999, the American Film Institute recognized Hepburn as the greatest female actress.
Hepburn spent the final years of her life at Fenwick Golf Club in Old Saybrook. The movie star always insisted on carrying her own clubs and to those around the course and surrounding town she was simply known as Kate. Hepburn died in 2003 at the age of 96.
In April, Wilshire Country Club will once welcome the biggest names in sport and screen when it hosts the LPGA Tour for the third time. The club sits just 10 minutes from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where Hepburn has a star.