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Al Besselink won the first Tournament of Champions in 1953

Desert Inn

Wilbur Clark’s Desert Inn hotel and swimming pool in Las Vegas on March 26, 1953. (Photo: Associated Press)

The Desert Inn opened in 1950 and was the fifth major resort on the Las Vegas Strip. Frank Sinatra made his Vegas debut there in 1951.

In 1953, the D.I., as it was dubbed, hosted the first Tournament of Champions, and when Albert Cornelius Besselink won by a shot over Charlie Harper, his first-place prize of $10,000 was delivered in a wheelbarrow full of silver dollar coins.

Besselink made an additional $12,500 for his win after placing a $500 bet on himself at 25 to 1 odds.

More than two decades later, Besselink’s Vegas victory got demoted. According to, during the Deane Beman era as PGA Tour commissioner, the TOC win was declared an unofficial victory.

As for the Desert Inn, it closed in 2000 and was finally demolished in 2004.

Desert Inn

The remaining towers of the Desert Inn Hotel are imploded on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2004, in Las Vegas. (Photo: Joe Cavaretta/Associated Press)


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