Practitioners of the newspaper craft tend to curb their enthusiasm about … most things.
Not to be overly rah-rah, but the WGC-Accenture Match Play golf tournament last week at the new Ritz-Carlton Golf Club on Dove Mountain had just about everything a community could want.
Beautiful, even hot weather… while it was snowing in Philadelphia. The world’s finest golfers, among them the potentially greatest thus far, Tiger Woods. The intense media attention he brought, even for three days. Compelling competition for high stakes. Fans, more than 65,000 of them, coming to the Tortolita beauty of north Marana.
Match play also generates funds, about $1.3 million even in a difficult market, for charity through the determined efforts of the Tucson Conquistadores. Don’t forget the money raised for Little League baseball, school groups and others at concessions stands across the venue.
And, oh, what a venue. The new Jack Nicklaus Signature course is beautiful, terrifically placed, relatively easy for the fans to walk, challenging for the world’s 64 best golfers, and next to an exclusive hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, which will be open next year, when Tiger’s knee ought to be healthy and he at full strength, and when the people who put this tournament on have had a year’s experience on a new course.
The golf truly is terrific, Tiger or no. To see the buzz created by young players like Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, to hear the wave of camera shutters like the wings of birds suddenly spooked from tree tops after a shot, are worth any price of admission. To watch Englishman Paul Casey hole a 6 iron from 200 yards, as he did Sunday morning, is a memory. Then there’s the champion, Ogilvy, whose long, lean, levered body is made to swing a club. It is great stuff, even for the casual golf fan.
Don’t look away now, but match play has the potential to be a world-class event for the Northwest, and for greater Tucson. Never mind the economic multipliers; put a value on beamed images of sun and saguaro to places like Chicago, where Cub fans who love golf are thinking about a winter get-away to watch spring training and to take a good walk, unspoiled, among golf’s best. Sunday’s crowd had more than a few fans of Midwest baseball teams, people getting out of the cold for a little sun and the good life in February. There are millions of them, needing to be invited.
The Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau has been promoting Tucson as a “field of dreams,” with the Diamondbacks and Rockies still training for baseball in our city, and the “desert of your dreams,” with hiking, great golf to play, spas and great food. Add match play to the promotional mix. Spring training baseball is threatened in this community. People who care about baseball, and its economic effect — there is one — are rallying to the cause, but spring training lacks the momentum of money. Match play may rise in significance as baseball may recede.
A few things need to happen to make match play a Tucson fixture. At Sunday’s 15th green trophy presentation to Geoff Ogilvy, PGA tour director Tim Finchem said corporate giant Accenture has become “a long-term partner now.” We’d love to see Accenture extend that partnership to Tucson, and in particular to the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain. Many others want to see it happen, too, and they’re talking. May those talks go well.
It’s easy to get a little miffed at the East Coast-centric, Tiger-centric media. When Casey hit his terrific shot at 10-ish Sunday morning, there were relatively few people on the course, and an ESPN announcer said as much when the video was shown deep within the bowels of a 90-minute Sports Center. All righty, then. The images of short-sleeved, sun-burned people and towering saguaros make the biases more palatable.
Special congratulations to Marana, the match play tournament staff, the people at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, the Conquistadores, and everyone who showed up. We’ve got the potential for something great here.