by Adam Lazarus
A colorful collection of golf tales and tidbits, funny stories and factoids and some legends and lore about the game of golf and Tucson’s rich golf history!
Golf would be such a different game if only the hole were bigger!
Did you know the origin of the size of the golf hole goes back about 500 years, when the game was played on the sandy links land in Scotland and the hole was literally a rabbit hole in the sand? Legend has it that early in a round of golf an Earl came upon a green with no hole. His young caddie saw a broken whiskey bottle near the green, sanded the edges down and embedded the bottle in the green. This became the standard for the size of the hole as it remains today.
First stagecoaches, now golf carts.
Did you know that in the early 1800’s, the Richard Starr Stagecoach line traveled through the mountain pass that is now the 15th hole of Starr Pass Golf Course on its way to downtown Tucson?
“Lefty”, um, I mean “Righty.”
Phil Mickelson, who plays left-handed, is actually right handed. He learned to play golf by mirroring his father’s golf swing and he has used left handed golf clubs ever since.
Tucson’s oldest, and oiliest, golf course.
Did you know that the first golf course built in Tucson was actually a primitive “skin” golf course built in 1914 where the Tucson Country Club is now? A “skin” golf course is a dirt course which is sprayed with oil to make it smoother. The first “true” grass golf course in Tucson was El Rio Country Club completed in 1929. Opened Nov. 1, 1929, a week after the stock market crash, El Rio flourished despite the economic conditions and boasted 250 members at the time. El Rio was also the first golf course to host the Tucson Open.
The Arizona sweep!
Did you know that on five occasions, golfers scored back-to-back wins in the two Arizona professional golf tournaments, the Phoenix and Tucson Opens? The feat was first accomplished by Gene Littler in 1959, followed by George Knudson in 1968, Bruce Crampton in 1973, Johnny Miller in 1974 and 1975 and finally Phil Mickelson in 1996.
Dynasty in the desert.
Johnny Miller was nicknamed the “Desert Fox” because so many of his wins came on the desert courses of Arizona. Bob Hope actually dubbed the Tucson Open the “Johnny Miller Benefit” as Miller won three consecutive years in Tucson (1974-1976).
Legends of the Southwest.
Did you know that a number of celebrities and legends have enjoyed the wonderful courses of Southern Arizona. Golf greats like Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino have played, and occasionally won, here in the Old Pueblo. Famous crooners like Dean Martin and Bing Crosby and dozens of ball players from Joe Garagiola to Kenny Lofton and more have all played golf in the Old Pueblo. Gangland legend has it that infamous bank robber, golfer and “public enemy number one” John Dillinger carried two golf bags while vacationing – one filled with golf clubs and the other filled with machine guns. Some say he even got in a round of golf before his 1934 capture in Tucson.
Photos and four putts.
Ventana Canyon’s noted third hole on the Mountain course, a 107-yard Par 3, is one of the most scenic in the country; so spectacular that it’s the most photographed golf hole west of the Mississippi! Did you know that the hole cost $1 million to build and is nicknamed “Tom’s Folly” because in 1987 PGA Tour Legend Tom Watson four-putted there in the final round of the Merrill-Lynch Shootout and lost to Fuzzy Zoeller?
White Christmas to white golf balls.
The beautiful Tubac Golf Resort was founded in 1959 by a famous “developer” known more for his singing than his speculating. Do you know his name? It was none other than entertainment legend, and avid golfer, Bing Crosby.
Helping kids since 1962.
The Tucson Conquistadores, founded by the late Roy P. Drachman, are celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 2012. Did you know that since they were founded, their contribution to underprivileged young athletes and local athletic programs have topped $23,000,000? That’s almost half a million donated to area youth every year.
Bringing new meaning to those “long”, hot Arizona summer days.
Did you know that golf balls travel significantly further on hot days? A golfer swinging a club at around 100 mph will carry the driver up to eight yards longer for each increase in air temperature of 25°F.
Golf is 90% mental and the other 10%… is mental.
Years ago during the final round of a tournament down at Rio Rico, a man was so upset at his poor round that when he finished #18 he threw his golf bag, clubs and all, into the lake. He then stormed off to the parking lot amid cheering and catcalling from those who watched it. A few moments the man returned, waded into the water, found his bag, hauled it to the shore, opened a pocket and pulled his car keys out. He then threw his bag back into the lake, marched back to the parking lot soaking wet and promptly drove away.
Where can shooting a 6 be considered a great score?
Only at Turquoise Valley Golf Course, just down the road in Naco, the home to the 747 yard “Rattler”, the only Par 6 in Arizona. Like its namesake, this long and dangerous monster is the longest golf hole in the Grand Canyon State and according to it’s the 5th-Longest golf hole in the United States. Today’s Golfer (a UK magazine) ranks it as 10th-Longest golf hole on Planet Earth!
Walk in the footsteps of Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy.
Did you know that several memorable scenes in the classic golf movie “Tin Cup” were filmed at Tubac Golf Resort? The scene where McAvoy breaks 13 of his golf clubs, then tries to convince anyone in the gallery to bet him that he can’t par out with his 7-iron was filmed on the third tee of Tubac’s Rancho nine. Another famous scene, where McAvoy, tied for the lead decides to “go for it” on 18 and hits the next 11 balls into the lake. “Tin Cup” then hits the 12th and final ball in his bag, clearing the lake and though he loses the match his shot will go down in history. Did you know that the lake used for this scene is actually on the 16th hole and was created specifically for the filming of the movie?