Now that the golf season officially is over, ’tis the season to rate the top-10 stories in golf in 2007 (in reverse order) as they relate to Arizona:
No. 10: South “bye’’ Southwest
Kathy Wilkes, the longtime executive director of the Southwest Section of the PGA, leaves after 16 years to become director of employment services for the PGA of America at its headquarters in West Palm Beach, Fla. Wilkes is replaced by Curt Hudek, who founded and headed the Professional Golf Management program at Arizona State. “I would have never thought of a job opportunity in Florida, so that sort of caught me by surprise,’’ Wilkes said of her sudden exit from the SWPGA.
No. 9: Senior moment
Scottsdale’s R.W. Eaks, who for years was known as “Gramps’’ because he was the oldest guy on the Nationwide Tour, has a career year on the Champions Tour. He finishes sixth on the money list with more than $1.5 million — or six times more than he made in 77 starts on the PGA Tour, and 2 1/2 times more than he made in 258 starts on the Nationwide. Maybe all Eaks, 55, needed was some time for his nickname to catch up with him.
No. 8: Twice as nice for Scottsdale
A last-minute deal between the Thunderbirds and the PGA Tour brings the Fry’s “desperately-seeking-a-home’’ Electronics Open to the East Valley in mid-October. Despite drawing just 27,500 fans for the week, organizers proclaim it a success and a “comfortable alternative’’ to the FBR Open after Mike Weir wins it. City fathers/backers don’t really care what the spin is as long as other fans of the Big Tour realize that Scottsdale is the only city in America to host two PGA Tour events in the same year.
No. 7: AGA prevails on Papago
The Arizona Golf Association gets the nod of approval from the Phoenix City Parks and Recreation Department to renovate Papago Golf Course. The AGA, which won the bid over two other proposals, fought off a strong challenge by a citizens’ coalition to stay on track for the $7.5 million project. The plan calls for an eight-month shutdown of the golf course beginning in April, 2008. The coalition had been critical of the AGA’s lack of experience in golf course management, as well as financial plans.
No. 6: “Badds’’ makes good
In a battle that essentially boiled down to a couple of Scottsdale neighbors, Aaron Baddeley rallies from three shots down with four holes to play and defeats Jeff Quinney to win the FBR Open. Even though Quinney was a former Arizona State All-American and had plenty of fans pulling for him down the stretch, Baddeley had a rather large contingent called “Badds Brigade’’ rooting for him, too. The bottom line was a 64-64 finish that sealed the deal for the 26-year-old Australian.
No. 5: Like a Champion
In a bold move, the PGA Tour, TPC Scottsdale, City of Scottsdale and other notables decide to pump $12 million into a course renovation/redesign and new clubhouse for what formerly was known as the Desert Course at the TPC. Architect Randy Heckenkemper heads the 10-month effort, and lo and behold the new Champions Course at the TPC comes out a winner when it is unveiled in November, or about two weeks after it already had hosted a PGA Tour first-stage qualifier. What’s next?
No. 4: He’s the Yun!
Andrew Yun, a 16-year-old from Chandler, shocks the field by winning the Arizona State Stroke Play Championship at the Outlaw Course on Desert Mountain. Yun, a standout player on Chandler Hamilton High’s state championship teams the past two years, had to qualify for the event, and ended up winning by seven shots. By the way, he was the only player to equal par. In the process, Yun became the tournament’s youngest winner in its 34 years, and the second youngest to win a major championship ever in Arizona.
No. 3: Viva Lorena!
Mexican superstar and former Arizona Wildcat Lorena Ochoa kicks off a record season by winning the Safeway International at the East Valley’s Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club. Ochoa, who went on to win eight times and earn more than $4.3 million, defeats Suzann Pettersen by two shots to win the title. Ochoa, who always goes out of her way to say hello to Hispanic workers at golf courses where the LPGA plays, went on to supplant Annika Sorenstam, another former Wildcat, as the No. 1 player in women’s golf, with a run which started a month later.
No. 2: Tiger comes to Tucson
The world’s No. 1 player shows up in the Old Pueblo and promptly bows out in the third round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship when he is upset in overtime by Australia’s notorious “Tiger hunter,’’ Nick O’Hern. Nobody remembers that Sweden’s Henrik Stinson was the winner at The Gallery outside Tucson, only Tiger’s departure. Oh well. Phil Mickelson did not have such a great year in Arizona, either, as he missed the cut in both the FBR Open and Fry’s Electronics Open.
No. 1: Devils get their due
It could be a PGA Tour record (nobody seems to know for sure), but however you slice it, five former Arizona State All-Americans did earn their PGA Tour cards for 2008. Graduating from the Nationwide Tour were Matt Jones and Chez Reavie. Doing it the hard way were Jin Park, Todd Demsey and Alejandro Canizares, who went to qualifying school. Four of the five live in Scottsdale, with Park just a short drive away in Cave Creek. Four of the five will be rookies, with Demsey having played one season (1997) in the big league.