Some of the most influential people in golf have big plans for a very small place.

They are planning an extensive renovation of the Maggie Hathaway Golf Course in South Los Angeles, just down Century Boulevard from SoFi Stadium at the corner of 98th Street and Western Avenue. It’s a nine-hole, par-three course that hosts about 20,000 rounds per year and is tucked behind Jesse Owens Park.

With the U.S. Open coming to Los Angeles Country Club this month — the first time in 75 years that major championship has been held in L.A. — organizers have identified Maggie Hathaway Golf Course as a path to further growing the game.

“Golf has been ill served over the years by simply making it a country-club sport,” said Dick Shortz, co-chair of LACC’s U.S. Open Committee. “Golf as a sport needs greater diversity.”

To that end, a collection of heavy hitters — among them LACC, the United States Golf Assn., Southern California Golf Assn., and county and city political leaders — are planning a $15-million renovation of Maggie Hathaway Golf Course that includes creating golf learning centers for local youth.

Ron Dowell on the changes being made at Maggie Hathaway Golf Course in Los Angeles.

When the U.S. Open comes, it brings with it a significant investment in that host community. This year, the Maggie Hathaway course will reap the benefits.

It’s an ambitious endeavor that has the backing of Mayor Karen Bass and Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell as well as $1-million donations from the foundations of Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.

Renowned golf course architect Gil Hanse will oversee the renovation on a pro bono basis, and the irrigation team at LACC will assist in that aspect of the year-long project.

Hanse, responsible for the 2010 redesign of the North Course at LACC, has some high-profile par-three courses in his portfolio, among them The Cradle at Pinehurst, The Gauntlet at Streamsong and The Park at West Palm Beach.

In a recent visit to the Maggie Hathaway, he said he liked the existing routing of the 1,008-yard course, which opened in 1962 and is named for an actress, activist, blues singer and golfer.

“We don’t view it as a blank canvas,” Hanse said. “We want it to remain very familiar to those who know and love it in its current condition. The routing and the flow will remain largely untouched, and that will provide the familiarity. … We’re just hoping to make it better, but still Maggie.”

That likely will include reversing the driving range to create room for longer shots, and expanding the practice areas.

“My dream is not so much the golf course but the look of the place,” said Glen Porter, CEO of Southern Area Youth Programs, Inc. (SAYPI). “For the youth in our community, when they walk up, instead of seeing all these bars and dilapidated buildings, we want to give them something that’s exciting, something that they want to be a part of. Something they want to come to and bring their friends to.”

Glen Porter, the CEO of Southern Area Youth Programs, Inc., tends a flag stick at Maggie Hathaway Golf Course, a par-three course in South Los Angeles.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) said that although he’s encouraged, he’s taking a wait-and-see approach to the project. He’s concerned that a substantial investment in Maggie Hathaway could eventually exclude those people who have grown accustomed to an inexpensive option — $7 per round, seven days a week.

“I’m excited about the commitment here and the reinvestment,” he said. “But I’ve lived long enough, and I’ve been around here long enough to know that many times the reinvestment doesn’t mean it still includes us. I want the community to benefit.”

The prospect of a renovated course appeals to golfers such as Ron Dowell, a Compton resident who frequently plays Maggie Hathaway with his adult son, Ahmad. They fine-tune their game on the undulating hills and tiny greens the size of backyard trampolines.

“My interest would be the young people, seeing them get involved in golf for the mental and physical disciplines of the game,” he said. “People all over the world play golf. If you carry your clubs with you, wherever you are, you’re ready to play.”

This collaboration is determined to make golf more accessible, using a par-three course to pull a wedge from the bag.

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