For thirteen years, the University of Texas at Tyler sponsored a world class professional golf tournament which boasted some of the biggest names in golf. The Eisenhower International Golf Classic (Eisenhower Classic), a partnership between UT Tyler and Sister Cities International, was named in honor of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an avid golfer and founder of Sister Cities International.
The Eisenhower Classic served as a showcase for Tyler’s membership in Sister Cities International. Proceeds from the tournament went towards scholarship funds for international students pursuing higher education in U.S. Sister Cities. Tyler joined the Sister Cities Program in 1982, forming mutual ties with Metz, France (1982-1990). Additional partnerships were subsequently established with Yachiyo City, Japan (1992-present); Jelenia Gora, Poland (1993-present); and Lo Barnechea, Chile (2001-present).
Dr. George F. Hamm, second president of UT Tyler and member of the International Executive Board of Sister Cities International, served as tournament chairman from 1987-1998. Dr. Hamm co-chaired the 1999 tournament with his successor, current UT Tyler president Dr. Rod Mabry.
The first Eisenhower Classic took place in 1987 at Hollytree Country Club in Tyler, Texas. The tournament moved to Willowbrook Country Club in Tyler, Texas in 1990, where it remained until 1999. The Tyler Sister Cities Board of Directors partnered locally with the UT Tyler Patriots, an honorary organization founded in 1984, to create the first annual Million Dollar Hole-In-One contest in conjunction with the Eisenhower Classic. Additional support for the tournament came from the PGA Tour, Sister Cities International, and local Tyler businesses.
The inaugural tournament was co-hosted by David and Julie Eisenhower in collaboration David Graham, a professional golfer from Australia. Thirty-two professional golfers from PGA Tour roster joined the 1987 Eisenhower International Golf Classic. The first Eisenhower Classic also included an auction, the Million Dollar Hole-In-One contest, and series of luncheons.
Over the next twelve years, the Eisenhower International Golf Classic expanded to include a Texas barbeque, concerts, a youth putting contest, a football clinic, a 5k run, celebrity luncheons, the Sister Cities International Young Artists Competition, twinning ceremonies hosted by Tyler Sister Cities, an International Trade Conference, the High School Scholars Program, and charity raffles featuring prizes from local businesses.
The Eisenhower Classic featured members of the LPGA Tour for the first time in 1991. Members of the Senior PGA tour joined the tournament roster in 1995. In addition to pro golfers, the Eisenhower Classic hosted a broad range of celebrities including football great Troy Aikman and the Dixie Chicks. In keeping with its international mission, the Eisenhower Classic also hosted dignitaries from Austria, Argentina, Australia, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the United States, and the Soviet Union.
The last Eisenhower International Golf Classic took place in 1999. Many aspects of the Eisenhower tournament found new life under the auspices of the UT Tyler Patriot Golf Classic, an annual tournament and fundraiser which benefits the university’s scholarship program. In conjunction with the Patriot Golf Classic, the UT Tyler Patriots organization hosts the Million Dollar Hole-In-One competition yearly. The Tyler Sister Cities organization continues to maintain business opportunities and educational ties through Sister Cities International.
Want to Learn More about the Eisenhower Classic?
Check out the finding aid for the Eisenhower International Golf Classic Records.