While the Southwest Section Professional National Championship is always one of the premier events of the year because of the quality of the field and the variety of items at stake, it was the golf course that received a great deal of attention at this year’s event. At stake in this event is a good sized purse, SWSPGA Player of the Year Points and 10 qualifying spots
for next year’s Professional National Championship. Although these items are always a focus of the discussion at the event in the end it was the golf course and its demands that were getting a lot of attention.
Pinnacle Peak Country Club’s Head Professional Bill Kuikman explained the “premium” that is placed on driving the ball in the fairway here, the need for a player to work the ball both directions, extreme accuracy with the short irons and most importantly an ability to “read” the greens. Not particularly long for this type of event—the scores were a great reflection of the fact that while a couple players could handle all of these demands for a day—no one handled it for the entire week.
The rough was at a manageable length and the hole locations reasonable, however the greens proved very difficult to read for most of the field. Clearly influenced by the “push” from Pinnacle Peak and the “draw” from the Valley there were frequent claims of putts “defying gravity” and “breaking uphill” as players made their way around this traditional layout! The scoring table following the round was filled with comments like “I hit it pretty well, but could not make a putt”. In the end it was the “consistent” play that determined the winner.
The quality of the course was evident following day one of this 54-hole event as there were twenty professionals that were able to shoot under par and the low score for the day was a four under par 68 shot by Nick Hodge of Arizona Country Club and Joe Penaflor of the Golf Club Scottsdale. At this point there were more than 30 professionals within five shots of the lead. Scott Frisch was among this group with a one under par round of 71.
Day two was very similar to day one, although Chris Hantla was able to handle all the challenges of the golf course and he carded the low round of the week with a 7 under par 65 to take the lead after an even par round on day one. Twenty professionals again shot under par—however only six of these professionals had done so on day one! The list included Scott Frisch, Mike Hopper, Craig Hocknull, Brandon Smith, Glen Griffith and Troy Helseth. There remained 12 professionals within 5 shots of the lead—although it was the steady play from this short list of six that all factored into the title.
Starting the final day four shots off the lead and with seven players between him and the leader Scott Frisch was hoping to get off to a good start—but through seven holes he had not yet posted a birdie. In the next 9 holes however Scott put all the pieces together, including reading the greens, as he carded five birdies and an eagle. Scott was fearful for his chances as he made a bogey at the 17th and made par on the reachable par 5 18th and thought that he may have come up short again in his efforts to win this major event. His hot nine holes enabled him to post the second lowest round of the week at 66 and got him to nine under par. While Scott had been able to figure it out for at least nine holes, none of the seven players ahead of him when the final day started was able to do the same. The course did yield seventeen rounds under par on the final day and in the end only four players were able to shoot under par each day of the event—not surprisingly all of these players finished in the top 5.
While Scott enjoyed the victory, there were other items at stake as well. The players that ultimately qualified for next year’s PNC included our winner along with Mike Hopper, Craig Hocknull, Brandon Smith, Will Frantz (final round 67), Chris Hantla, Jeff Yurkiewicz, Jon Stanley, Ken Carpenter and Jeff Thomas.
A special thanks to Bill Kuikman and the members at Pinnacle Peak Country Club for allowing the Southwest Section PGA to host the event this year—it really contributed to a great story.