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Sheri’s Palm Springs Area Blog

Whether it be real estate updates, restaurant reviews, events, or highlights of unique homes in Palm Springs, follow Sheri as she covers all that Palm Springs and the surrounding area has to offer.

The Coachella Valley’s Enduring Love Affair with Dates

Date palm trees with bags hanging off to protect the fruitUnder those bags there's caramel gold. | Courtesy of Visit Greater Palm Springs

The Coachella Valley's Enduring Love Affair with Dates

The desert hotspot is now best known for its music festival, but an obsession with the Middle Eastern fruit has persisted for over a century. There’s even a dates festival in its honor.

TUCKED AWAY ALONG THE EDGE OF A COUNTY FAIR IN INDIO, CALIFORNIA, is a curious building with distinct Middle Eastern flair: white with blue trim, covered in murals, and topped with a bulbous gold Persian dome and pointed arches that court the Southern California breeze. While elsewhere on the grounds neon-lit Ferris wheels spin against the night sky, demolition derbies smash large vehicles and musical acts like Smash Mouth smash eardrums, inside this building are wrinkly and glistening fruit, a virtual embarrassment of chewy caramel riches. Abbadas, Medjoosl, Barhis, Brunettes, you name it. Halawi, Hellali, Honey, sure, those too.

This is the Taj Mahal building, a remnant from when the Riverside County Fair & National Date Festival was a tribute to the Coachella Valley cash crop of dates, and its Middle Eastern origins. Though today the Coachella Valley may be best known for its blowout music festival, in the early 1900s, thanks to some intrepid scientists and the imagination of some truly Disney-level storytellers, it was the destination that dates built.

This iteration of the transportive fair was launched in 1947. On certain nights guests wearing Arabian Nights-style attire got in the fair for free, and the whole grounds resembled a movie set—camel races and all. A Baghdad stage designed by Hollywood art director Harry Oliver hosted sequined nightly performances of “One Thousand and One Nights.”

a woman in white on a ladder leaning against a date palm tree in the Coachella Valley
Beauty queens also had to have great balance. | University of Southern California / Corbis Historical

The overt appropriation has dwindled, but in its 76th year, the heritage remains in a few architectural elements and the National Date Festival’s Queen Scheherazade Pageant. A part of the fair from its beginnings, the pageant originated as a stepping stone to the glitzy Miss California title. Today it’s morphed into a scholarship fund, where women eschew swimsuits in favor of billowing harem pants, vying for up to $3,500 in prizes.

And the dates remain. Today, the Coachella Valley is still the number one producer of dates in the US, shipping off 90% of the country’s crop. Throughout the valley, date palms dangle fruit in clusters like grapes. And yet, dates aren’t native to the United States, let alone California. So how did the flowering plant come to headline a regionally beloved festival and serve as a magnet for local tourism?

Enter the agricultural explorers.

two people in dated costume clothing sipping a date shake while a camel looks on
The 1958 version of sharing a date shake. | University of Southern California / Corbis Historical

Traveling the world, one tree at a time

A little over a century ago, American cuisine was heavy on meat, cheese, and potatoes. The country’s agricultural yields had little in the way of fruits and vegetables, and many were seeking some palette diversity (not to mention fiber). In an effort to diversify American crops and diets, in 1898 the USDA formed an elite task force of plant scientists. These “agricultural explorers” would trek around the world Indiana Jones-style, culling plants and bringing them back home to the States. They introduced tens of thousands of foods we still eat today, including: mangoes, avocados, horseradish, kale, nectarines, papaya, pistachios, and, of course, the date palm, native of the Middle East and North Africa.

The program came on the heels of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, where Greater Los Angeles was coincidentally introduced as a place of fertility, abundance, and all things tropical. A couple decades earlier, the Southern Pacific Railroad laid tracks throughout the desert as a result of westward expansion, but the discovery of nutrient-rich soil and a massive desert aquifer stretching from the San Jacinto Mountains to the Salton Sea lead to another gold rush of sorts for parcels of the region’s farmland.

The USDA’s agricultural explorers noted that the soil conditions in Algeria, its neighbors, and the Arabian Peninsula were similar to that of the Coachella Valley, which some referred to as the American Sahara. And there, the date palm, one of the oldest domesticated crops, were abundant. Plus, the palm’s fruit was desirable—sweet, delicious, and rich in vitamins and minerals helpful for relieving common ailments like constipation. The quest to import date palms to the States began romantically: A botanist named David Fairchild went to Baghdad to investigate the species, in part because he remembered its role in A Thousand and One Arabian Nights. His fellow USDA scientist Walter Swingle followed, lugging a clutch of large, unwieldy, 60-pound tree offshoots back to the Coachella Valley (they had to be offshoots, as seeds could create anomalies in the DNA). Once planted, the trees thrived.

a hand holding some ripe yellow dates
One for you, the rest for me. | Courtesy of Aziz Farms

Curving through the Palm Desert, the Southern Pacific Railroad, and eventually Highway 111, allowed tourists to travel to foreign lands without leaving the country. At the turn of the century, the acres of date palm farms provided an escape to what at the time was viewed as exotic—an admittedly problematic perspective popular culture was all too happy to support.

Fueling it was an Americans obsession with a romanticized idea of the Middle East, as studios pumped out movies like Cleopatra, The Queen of Sheba, and The Sheik, starring a very un-Middle Eastern Rudolph Valentino. Not only were films affected by the craze, but architecture, fashion, art, and agriculture. Landscapes were fashioned accordingly: The towns of Coachella Valley went all in, designing attractions to mirror Hollywood sets and opening date shops shaped like pyramids and Bedouin tents. The town of Walters changed its name to Mecca in 1904, while elsewhere, there were name makeovers like Cairo Avenue, still in use today. There were even (thankfully abandoned) plans to create an entire town called Arabia, with architecture reminiscent of the Sahara and a shopping complex where customers would arrive on camels.

And in 1921—the same year as The Sheik’s big screen debut—the town of Indio launched the International Festival of Dates to a backdrop of masquerading harem girls, camel races, and elaborate Arabian costumes. All “The Wise Men” were going, said the promotional pamphlets.

Sometime after the second World War, the Date Festival merged with the Riverside County Fair. And as geopolitics and America’s perceptions of the Middle East shifted in the subsequent decades, the societal obsession with Middle Eastern stereotypes dwindled. The dates, it seemed, were the era’s few survivors.

a colorful metal shed painted with images of pyramids
The Packhouse at Aziz Farms | Courtesy of Visit Greater Palm Springs

Saving the Coachella date—a survival story

Stop by the farmers market in Indio on a typical Saturday and you might run into Tadros Tadros—“A man so nice you gotta say it twice,” says his son Mark—manning the Aziz Farms booth. Born in Egypt and armed with a degree in agriculture and horticulture from the University of Cairo, Tadros moved to the States in the 1960s in search of new opportunities. He was a beekeeper for a time, as well as an exceptional tennis player, and took a job as a tennis pro in the Coachella Valley. It was there that he first spotted California-grown Yellow Barhi dates.

“He was familiar with the more exotic [date] varieties like the Barhi,” says Mark. “But most growers were letting it cure to a brown state as opposed to selling it when it was still crunchy and yellow like an apple.” Seeing an opening, Tadros procured some Yellow Barhi, drove to Los Angeles, and sold them out of the trunk of his car to Egyptian expats. He eventually saved up enough money to buy some land and start his own operation. Today, Aziz Farms ships primarily within the United States.

Detroit's really big for us,” says Mark. “Medjool dates are big there for folks like us, because we're kind of a small to mid-sized producer and will deal with a lot of the marketplaces where you'll see larger ethnic populations.”

“I've had friends that to this day think I’m a coconut farmer and I’m lying to them about what I grow on our trees.”

A few years ago, Mark took over the business, and had to reckon with the declining state of the industry. In Mark’s words, farms are a dying breed. But he has a few tricks up his sleeve to keep the farm alive, including diversifying his crops, planting vegetables and partnering with restaurants to meet their supply needs.

He’s also started hosting adult field trips. Based on the same curriculum as the school kids’ program, the grown-up offerings are geared towards spreading the word about proper growing practices and the financial impacts of agritourism.“If you look at some of our ethnic customer base, they're what I consider date experts, date aficionados: They understand dates at their core, they eat them differently, they use them differently, they cherish them differently, and they understand very specifically where these things come from,” Mark says. “But I don't think that the average American really understands the impact of the Coachella Valley. I've had friends that to this day think I’m a coconut farmer and I’m lying to them about what I grow on our trees.”

a giant roadside knight pointing at a shed
Let the knight point your way. | Courtesy of Visit Greater Palm Springs

The perfect date: How to tour date farms in Coachella Valley

For those interested in learning more about the date’s renaissance in California, the Date Museum inside the Coachella Valley History Museum pays homage to the region’s agricultural transformation. But while you’re in the area, thick creamy date shakes are a must. Some would say it’s the unofficial drink of Palm Springs. And you’ll find an abundance of options. Stop by farms like Hadley’s Fruit Orchards, or even get a version at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club. But for the full date experience, take your date to Shield’s Date Garden. One of the oldest date farms in the country, just look for the kitschy gigantic knight armed with shield and sword, pointing to the showroom.

First opened on Christmas Day in 1924 by mining engineer Floyd Shields and his teacher wife Bess, two lovebirds looking to capitalize on the burgeoning date industry, romance was a part of the formula from the beginning. Tasked with deciding how to market his business, Shields looked at the Arabian Nights themes elsewhere and decided he would focus on matters of the heart—and the libido. Specifically, with a slideshow called the Romance & Sex Life of the Date. Today, you can screen the presentation in the shop’s Romance Room (or just stream it on the website).

The subject matter is more about the propagating fruit and the intricacies of date farming, but the insinuation is more than enough to draw curious passersby inside Shields’ agricultural castle. So while the National Date Festival’s date focus has admittedly dwindled over the years, swapping the centerpiece fruit for rides, livestock shows, and Smash Mouth, there’s still much to see. Try doubling up your next Southern California getaway—or your trip to Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival—with a stop at the fruit-forward gem. Get the date shake, and if you’ve brought a date yourself, consider opting for two straws.

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Vanita Salisbury is Thrillist's Senior Travel Writer.

Proposition 13 & 19 – Home Protection for Seniors, Severely Disabled, Families, and Victims of Wildfire & Natural Disasters Initiative

California Proposition 13, passed by California voters in 1978, was a groundbreaking law that helped to keep property taxes under control for homeowners. The property tax caps offered by Proposition 13 affect everyone who owns real estate in California. Proposition 19 marked a significant change to Proposition 13, changing tax benefits for families, seniors, severely disabled persons, and victims of natural disasters in California.

Proposition 19 amends the California Constitution by expanding qualifications for the transfer of a property's taxable value. These changes may affect your next escrow and title transaction if eligibility requirements are met. Additional documents may be required by escrow if you plan to transfer the current taxable value of the property.

How does Proposition 19 affect property tax base transfers:

Starting April 1, 2020, Proposition 19 allows an owner of a primary residence who is over 55 years of age, severely disabled, or a victim of a wildfire or natural disaster to transfer the taxable value of the primary residence to a replacement primary residence:

  • anywhere in California;
  • purchased or newly constructed within 2 years;
  • of any value with an upward adjustment for a more expensive replacement; and
  • the property tax base can be transferred up to three times for persons over 55 years old or with severe disabilities and once for wildfire or disaster victims.

How does Proposition 19 affect inherited properties?

Starting February 16, 2021, Proposition 19 narrows the rules for parent-to-child or grandparent-to-grandchild exemption for inherited properties. The child or grandchild can transfer the taxable value of the inherited property if:

  • the property is the principal residence of the child or grandchild or is the family farm;
  • the homeowner's or disabled veteran's exemption is claimed within one year of the transfer to the child or grandchild; the property is used as the principal residence and has a market value above $1 million, in this case an upward adjustment in assessed value would occur.
Source: https://www.boe.ca.gov/prop19/ and https://assessor.lacounty.gov/about-prop-19/

Contact Sheri Dettman & Associates for more information on Proposition 19

Navigating the Housing Market: Answers to Your Top 3 Questions

Clarity is crucial in the ever-evolving landscape of the housing market, especially when conflicting information abounds. Addressing the top three questions on everyone's mind, we turn to expert insights for a comprehensive understanding of the current scenario.

  1. What's Next for Mortgage Rates?
    • Mortgage rates have recently surged, prompting concerns for potential homebuyers. Historically, there's a correlation between mortgage rates and inflation. With inflation easing, the Federal Reserve has paused rate hikes, leading experts to anticipate a gradual decline in mortgage rates in 2024.
    • Aziz Sunderji, a Strategist at Home Economics, suggests, "Interest rates are likely to be lower—perhaps even lower than many optimists think—in the weeks and months to come."
  2. Where Are Home Prices Headed?
    • Contrary to fears of a market crash, data indicates a steady rise in home prices across the nation, albeit at a more sustainable pace. The Home Price Expectation Survey from Pulsenomics, involving over 100 experts, underscores confidence in continued appreciation in the coming years.
    • The consensus among experts is that home prices will keep climbing, presenting a positive outlook for the housing market.
  3. Is a Recession Around the Corner?
    • Recession concerns have been prevalent, but recent indicators provide a more optimistic perspective. The Wall Street Journal's regular polls of experts reveal a shift in sentiment, with a decreasing likelihood of a recession.
    • Over 52% of experts now believe we are not headed for another recession, marking a significant departure from earlier projections.

Conclusion:

  • The housing market, despite its dynamic nature, appears resilient. The convergence of factors such as easing inflation, sustained home price appreciation, and diminishing recession concerns paints a hopeful picture.
  • It's essential to stay informed and connected. Contact us to discuss any housing market questions or concerns and gain a clearer perspective on your real estate decisions.

BNP Paribas Open – 2024 Player Field Just Released!

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BNP PARIBAS | OPEN
MARCH 3 - 17, 2024
INDIAN WELLS TENNIS GARDEN
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Just Released: 2024 Player Field!
The official 2024 BNP Paribas Open player field has just been unveiled, with a star-filled list of names bound for Indian Wells headlined by:

  • 5x Champion and No. 1 Novak Djokovic
  • 3x Champion Rafael Nadal
  • 2022 Champion and No. 1 Iga Swiatek
  • 2023 Champions Carlos Alcaraz and Elena Rybakina
  • 2024 AO Champions Jannik Sinner and Aryna Sabalenka

The full list also includes American stars Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula, Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, and Ben Shelton, as well as former BNP Paribas Open Champions Taylor Fritz, Naomi Osaka, Dominic Thiem and Victoria Azarenka. Be here to see them all in the desert this March!

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INDIAN WELLS TENNIS GARDEN
MARCH 3-17, 2024
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‘Entourage’ Creator Doug Ellin Is Moving On From His Lovely La Quinta Home

Sheri Dettman & Associates Sells "Entourage" writer's home at Andalusia CC in La Quinta

By Jennifer Kelly Geddes

Doug Ellin, creator and head writer of the huge HBO hit “Entourage,” is parting with his lovely La Quinta, CA, abode for exactly $3,995,000.

Nestled in the Coachella Valley and surrounded by the soaring Santa Rosa Mountains, this four-bedroom, 4.5-bath vacation getaway measures just over 4,100 square feet inside.

Ellin hasn’t had the home for long. He purchased it a year ago for $3,300,000, according to Realtor.com®.

The house sits on a third of an acre

(Realtor.com)

Living room

(Realtor.com)

Kitchen

(Realtor.com)

Main bedroom

(Realtor.com)

Primary bathroom

(Realtor.com)

Outdoor lounge area

(Realtor.com)

Fire pit and pool

(Realtor.com)

A recent renovation added premium appliances, custom cabinets, and gorgeous stone counters to the spacious kitchen. The open floor plan also includes a dining area and family room, which features a bar that’s perfect for hosting a real-life entourage. The main bedroom comes with a sitting area, remote-controlled blinds, and a spacious spa bath.

There’s a guest casita with a living room, kitchenette, and fireplace. Out back, there’s a covered patio, dining space, a pool, and a fire pit.

Most coveted of all, however, just might be the southern exposure, which offers views of the mountains, desert, lake, and the fancy Andalusia golf course, where this home is located.

“Entourage,” Ellin’s biggest hit, ran for eight seasons, ending in 2011. He also wrote and directed the 2015 movie “Entourage,”  and he was a producer on the 2016 movie “Bad Santa 2.” Currently, Ellin is co-host of the “Victory” podcast.

$50 Million Renovation Plan Approved For Hideaway Country Club

 

The members of the country club cast their ballots to support changes for the future of the premier club in La Quinta.

The Hideway Golf Club in La Quinta will undergo a massive renovation, as members voted.
The Hideway Golf Club in La Quinta will undergo a massive renovation, as members voted. (Design Rendering)

LA QUINTA, CA — Construction on renovations to the Hideaway Golf Club was slated to begin in May after members voted to go ahead with a massive renovation this week, according to a recent news release.

Peek inside the video below to see what they have planned for the space for the exclusive club.

The plan includes refreshing the golf courses, including new greens, bunkers, transitional landscaping and updated irrigation.

Improvements to the clubhouse include a new spa and fitness center building, a new upstairs casual dining room, renovated formal dining areas, and more.

Still, more improvements will include expanded pickleball courts, two new tennis courts, and an indoor/outdoor dining area with bocce courts for league and family play.

Robert McDonald, President of Hideaway’s Board of Directors, described the voting process with members as successful.

“The overwhelming turnout and strong support is the culmination of three years of planning and scores of meetings with members," he said. "Throughout this process, the Board and our committees listened to what our 435 equity members wanted. We also heard their concerns and their needs through focus groups and surveys. Engagement was bolstered through the 65 club members who volunteered their time to review plans and give feedback. It is gratifying to see the membership come together in support of this significant plan.”


 

8 Palm Springs Restaurants Recognized in Michelin Guide

These Palm Springs restaurants that attracted Michelin's attention craft culinary experiences that transcend expectation.

Amanda OliverRestaurants

Courtesy of Palm Springs Life

Beyond its recognition by the Michelin Guide, Workshop Kitchen + Bar has received a James Beard Award for its brutalist interior design.

Beyond its recognition by the Michelin Guide, Workshop Kitchen + Bar has received a James Beard Award for its brutalist interior design.PHOTO BY AUDREY MA, COURTESY WORKSHOP KITCHEN + BAR

While no Coachella Valley restaurants have received a coveted Michelin star — yet — eight Palm Springs hot spots are listed in the Michelin Guide, an esteemed handbook documenting the world’s best culinary and travel experiences.

From a modernist temple of concrete and a dog-friendly haven to a poolside property entwined with mobster and old Hollywood lore, these locations promise superb dining experiences — and they truly are experiences — that raise the bar on service, flavor, and restaurant design.

WORKSHOP KITCHEN + BAR

Cuisine: Californian

Awarded the 2015 James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant Design in the category of over 75 seats, Workshop is fastidiously devoted to all aspects of the dining experience. This includes a dedicated garden at chef/owner Michael Beckman’s home in Rancho Mirage that utilizes volcanic rock dust, worm castings, and bio char to grow nutrient-dense vegetables and aromatic herbs for a seasonal menu. 

BAR CECIL

Cuisine: American

Hearty American fare, like a signature burger with Comté cheese, pairs with a section on the menu labeled “Why not?” that includes a $50 martini, served perfectly chilled with a caviar-topped deviled egg. Every inch of the restaurant feels like a celebration — of food, libations, art (check out the hallway and bathrooms!), and each lucky patron who has snagged a seat for the evening. 

BOOZEHOUNDS

Cuisine: International

The name suggests this restaurant’s top-shelf cocktail program, but it also hints at the four-legged guests welcomed through a separate “doggy door.” Executive chef Aric Ianni incorporates global influences with seasonally inspired Southern California cuisine, like miso Chilean fish and chips. (There’s a chef-crafted menu for pups, too.)

“We created an elevated cocktail menu to complement the diverse and robust flavors,” beverage director Jake Lemmen says. “A perfect example of this would be our Sichuan Fizz, a cocktail showcasing a punchy Sichuan peppercorn foam, resulting in an aromatic, spicy cocktail that perfectly enhances the complex flavors found in our signature dishes.” 

tacquila palm springs

A chicken sandwich at Cheeky’s.
PHOTO COURTESY F10 CREATIVE

CHEEKY’S

Cuisine: American

Everything on the menu at Cheeky’s is made from scratch using the freshest local ingredients (produce usually comes from within 100 miles), and the dishes rotate weekly. This breakfast darling is perhaps best known for its bacon flight, but get this: The eggs come from the restaurant’s own chickens. 

TAC/QUILA

Cuisine: Mexican

While a lot of Mexican restaurants focus on dishes from Guadalajara, Tac/Quila’s cuisine reflects the diversity of Jalisco, drawing from the state’s south, east, and western regions, incorporating coastal and inland recipes. The restaurant recently added new vegan offerings, and chef David Arreguin is particularly proud of the three aguachile presentations.

“Our dishes are made with love by people who are happy to be working together. The back-of-house and front-of-house relationship is clear to customers that feel like they are dining among friends,” Arreguin says. “Guests return for an experience and not just a meal.” 

tacquila

Jalisco-style dishes at Tac/Quila.
PHOTO COURTESY TAC/QUILA

tacquila palm springs

The interior of 4 Saints.
PHOTO COURTESY KIMPTON ROWAN PALM SPRINGS 

4 SAINTS

Cuisine: Mediterranean

Coastline catches such as grilled Spanish octopus and ranch fare like grass-fed beef short rib with root vegetable purée pair with stunning views of the San Jacinto Mountains at 4 Saints. The seventh-floor rooftop perch over the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs hotel encourages a slowly savored meal.

THE BARN KITCHEN

Cuisine: Californian

“The foundation of The Barn Kitchen has always been based on local, seasonal, and familiar foods that we bring to the table with a very humble sensibility,” chef Shawn Applin says. With ingredients gathered at local markets and served family-style at communal tables in a garden setting, eating at this Sparrows Lodge restaurant is akin to a dinner party at your closest foodie friend’s desert abode. 

THE COLONY CLUB

Cuisine: American

This Moroccan-style oasis at The Colony Palms Hotel and Bungalows features elevated comfort dishes alongside innovative creations like a delectable poche (or pocket) of Pacific cod and scallop mousse wrapped inside of a Savoy cabbage leaf. Save room for the burnt Basque cheesecake — it’s cheesecake meets Creamsicle heaven.

“We were so honored and excited when we first learned in 2022 that The Colony Club had been listed in the Michelin Guide,” executive chef Michael Hung says. “It’s wonderful to see that our focus on giving guests a special experience each time they dine with us is being recognized. As we move forward, we are always trying to improve — every plate, every cocktail, every glass of wine. Each and every day is a chance to better ourselves and delight our guests. Hopefully, Michelin continues to see the improvements in our journey and sees fit to award us a star.” 

 

PPA Tour: The Masters – Palm Springs – Jan 9-14, 2024

More professional pickleball is coming to the Coachella Valley, with the Carvana PPA Masters at Mission Hills kicking off Thursday and running through Sunday, Jan. 15.

Some of the world’s top pro players, including Ben Johns, Anna Leigh Waters, Riley Newman and Catherine Parenteau, are expected to play. Johns will also play doubles alongside his brother, Collin. The event is billed as a “Wimbledon-esque” tournament featuring all-white apparel.

Thursday’s pro events will be men’s and women’s singles. Friday is mixed doubles, Saturday is men’s and women’s doubles and the championship is Sunday. There’s $238,314 in prize money for the pros, but there’s also action for amateurs as well.

A Round Robin Scramble for players rated 3.0 to 3.5 is set for 5 p.m. Thursday. The cost to enter is $15.42 and no partner is needed. Entrants will play four rounds of 12 minutes, each with a different partner and against a different pair of opponents.

For more advanced amateurs, there’s a “Best of the Best 4.0+” on Saturday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The cost to enter is $33.93. The format is three hours of continuous play with three rounds. The first round is a “sorting round” where each player will play a game with the other players in your initial group. The groups for the second round will be determined on where you finished in the first round of games.

For Round 3,  the top two players from each court move up and the bottom two players move down.

The top player on the top court after the third round will be crowned “The Best of the Best."

A four-day grounds pass is $80, courtside is $130 and VIP pass is $700. Less expensive single-day tickets are also available. To sit on championship court, a courtside or VIP ticket is required.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit https://www.tixr.com/groups/ppa/events/ppa-masters-53187. The competition can also be watched on the Tennis Channel and Carvana PPA TV.

Click here to watch!

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