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If we are honest, the inaugural Galleri Classic last year felt, well, a little strange.

Not because the stars of the PGA Tour Champions were back in the desert after nearly 30 years. That felt like it should have happened years earlier, and it was a welcome addition to the desert golf scene.

But that was David Toms and Steven Alker and Steve Stricker out there on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course. Shouldn’t it be Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson?

The phrase, “I miss the girls,” was uttered time and time again in the first year the Dinah Shore Tournament Course didn’t host an LPGA event since 1972. For everything that the PGA Tour Champions brought to Mission Hills Country Club, it was still a distinct change from the LPGA.

The LPGA’s history on the Shore Course crept into almost every aspect of the senior event, from trying to figure out differences in the golf course setup from the women to the seniors to constant questions about whether the senior winner would continue the LPGA tradition of the winner leaping into Poppie’s Pond next to the 18th green.

More: Bad back and all, Fred Couples hopes to keep playing Galleri Classic for a few more years

As the second year of the Galleri Classic is played this weekend, the seniors have started to take a firm grip on the dates and the golf course that for so long served the LPGA in the desert. In other words, the Galleri Classic is becoming its own golf event, not a replacement event for the LPGA.

Consider what has already happened this week in the second playing of the senior event at Mission Hills. Talk of a player jumping into the lake on Sunday has been limited to one or two hushed questions, far different from 2023 when there was from fans, but not the players, for a leap.

As defending champion David Toms said at the start of this week, “I had some guys, some of my fellow competitors, heckling me on the last hole wanting me to do it (last year), and I said we’ll leave that to the girls because that was always a big thing for them at this tournament.”

Then there is the new Wall of Champions, separate from the Wall of Champions for the LPGA. The LPGA’s wall has plaques of 51 winners along the long wall bordering Poppie’s Pond. The new Galleri Classic Wall of Champions is on the bridge crossing the pond to the 18th green. It’s a nod to the past without being part of the past.

Players are loving the course

More importantly, the PGA Tour Champions players are seeing the course as their own, while acknowledging the LPGA’s storied history on the Shore Course.

“This is a great spot for us. It was a great spot for the ladies when they were here, and it’s a good spot for us, too,” said Steve Stricker, the 2023 senior tour player of the year. “The whole setup is really nice. We’re here at a good time of the year where weather is usually pretty good. The course is in great shape, the facilities here are really nice and yeah, the demographics, you know, it’s a little bit older clientele just like we are so they can kind of relate to us.”

Everyone, from fans to officials to the players themselves, are now seeing the week as more of a senior tour week and less of an old LPGA week. That’s not to say that many fans don’t still miss the LPGA major and the golfers who played in it. Someday, if the desert is lucky, the LPGA might return to the desert, though very likely on another course.

But the desert is already lucky to have a PGA Tour Champions event in the desert and on a famed desert course that has proven already it can handle the differences between the top LPGA players and the top senior players quite nicely.

Yes, the LPGA and people in the desert need to work hard to bring the women pros back to the desert. And there will always be some fans who will say, “I miss the girls.”

At the same time, desert fans should continue embracing the PGA Tour Champions and the fact that the Shore Course is still being played by top pros on television. As Fred Couples said this week, “It’s a great course, it really is.”

It’s great to have the PGA Tour Champions in town, too.

Larry Bohannan is the golf writer for The Desert Sun. You can contact him at (760) 778-4633 or at larry.bohannan@desertsun.com. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at @larry_bohannan. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Desert Sun.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: PGA Tour Champions taking control of last week of March in Palm Springs area

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