Mission Hills Country Club: A Prestigious Title, a Trophy and a Swim in the Lake?

This week, 78 of the nation's top junior golfers will be looking to get their feet wet as they travel to Rancho Mirage, Calif., for the 27th annual ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior…literally.

Usually these talented golfers try to avoid the water hazards, but it’s a different story for champions on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course. In fact, only the true champions end up in Champions Lake, the water surrounding the No. 18 green.

It has become tradition for the winner of the LPGA’s Kraft Nabisco Championship to take the honorary “Champion’s Leap” into the water surrounding the No. 18 green, after the final round. The tradition started in 1988 when Amy Alcott took the first celebratory dive into the lake. Since then sixteen champions have followed suit, including 2007 champion Morgan Pressel, who jumped in alongside her caddie and grandmother.

Following their victories, the ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior’s past champions have also taken the honorary “Champion’s Leap.” Sihwan Kim of Buena Park, Calif., is no stranger to the water, after taking the victory leap the past two years. He was also victorious in 2005 when the event was held on the Arnold Palmer Course. He jumped along side of Girls Division champions Mindy Kim of Diamond Bar, Calif., in 2006 and Jennifer Johnson of La Quinta, Calif., in 2007.

As neither Kim nor Johnson will be returning to Mission Hills Country Club to defend their titles, two new juniors will have a chance to make a splash. However, taking the title will be no easy feat.

Lying in the valley of Rancho Mirage, the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at the Mission Hill Country Club is one of the most celebrated courses in the state of California. Known for its rolling hills and deep bunkers, the course has proven to be a challenge for golfers of all skill sets.

The Mission Hills Country Club boasts the three finest courses in the Coachella Valley: the Arnold Palmer Course, the Pete Dye Challenge Course and the Dinah Shore Tournament Course. The club provides an impressive tournament history as host of the PGA Club Professional Championship, U.S. Open Qualifier, California State Open, U.S. National Seniors, the LPGA Section Qualifier and both the PGA and LGPA Qualifying schools in addition to many others.

Recently ranked the No. 1 course in the valley, the Dinah Shore Tournament Course is a step above the rest. For the last 37 years, the course has been home to the LPGA’s Kraft Nabisco Championship. This event, featuring the best golfers on the LPGA Tour, is the first major of the LPGA season. Along with an impressive tournament history, the Dinah Shore Tournament course was voted No. 2 in Golf for Women’s “America’s Best ‘Women-Friendly’ Courses.” Golf Digest previously ranked the course as the 20th “Best in State.”

The par-72 course was designed by Desmond Muirhead and opened in 1970. From the back tips, the course plays at 7,240 yards, with a rating of 75.5. The challenging course ends with the club’s signature No. 18 and the “Champion’s Leap”. The par-5 stretches 646 yards to an island green positioned right in front of the clubhouse.

One of the many amenities the Mission Hills Country Club provides is the outstanding practice facilities. This includes a 17-acre dual-sided driving range, four putting greens and a chipping green.

The tradition will continue this week as the ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior tees up for its 27th year. Seventy-eight boy and girl junior golfers, ages 12-18, will face a tough but playable course, but only two will be drenched in victory.