Diversity is the theme of the AT&T Wireless Arizona Open, which tees off today for its three-day run at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale.
From high school students to card-carrying members of the PGA Tour, they’re all there to compete for the $100,000 purse, with $20,000 going to the winner.
The biggest “name” player is Andrew Magee, a 20-year veteran of the big leagues who has missed the entire 2004 season while recovering from ankle surgery. At the opposite end is Notre Dame Prep's “Little Philip’’ Francis, a 15-year-old who isn’t “little’’ any more after finishing as the low amateur in last year’s Open.
Several noted PGA of America club pros from across the country also will be in the field, including Utah’s Steve Schneiter and Minnesota’s Don Berry.
Both Schneiter and Berry have captured the prestigious National Club Pro Championship, and Berry was selected as the PGA of America’s player of the year in 2002.
Others with pedigree include former Arizona State All-American Chez Reavie of Mesa; Tom Stankowski, the older brother of Tour player Paul Stankowski; and Las Vegas pro Travis Long, who recently captured the Montana Open.
Then there are the “usual suspects’’ from the sponsoring Southwest Section of the PGA. They include Don Yrene, the assistant pro from The Golf Club Scottsdale, who recently earned player of the year honors after winning the PING/SWPGA Championship; Grayhawk instructor Paul Trittler, whose season has been second-best only to Yrene’s; Desert Mountain’s Scott Frisch, yet another former ASU All-American; and Brett Upper, who played the PGA Tour for eight years before becoming the director of golf at Arizona Country Club.
“A great field for a great tournament on a great golf course,’’ noted Scott Reid, the tournament director who also serves as the director of marketing for the SWPGA.
“We’re missing a couple of guys who have played in the past due to scheduling conflicts. But, overall, moving the event (from June to September) has been a positive because Troon Country Club is in perfect condition, with the rough a little higher than it’s been in the past.’’
Reid’s reference to those missing includes the defending champ, Greg Bruckner, who is playing on the Nationwide Tour. Also on the MIA list are several players of note from the Grey Goose Gateway Tour, as the Scottsdale-based minitour is concluding its season today.
But as Reid pointed out, “When you have guys like Andrew Magee in the field, that’s a big plus.’’
Magee, a longtime East Valley resident, said he was only able to accept the Arizona Open’s invitation because “I can ride in a cart for all 54 holes.’’
“I don’t know what to expect,’’ said Magee. “I guess I needed to see where I am, and I couldn’t have played if I had to walk.’’
Magee’s right foot still has not healed from ankle surgery performed in October 2003. “It’s starting to come around, but I still have some soreness,’’ he said.
Play begins at 7 a.m. each day, with the field cut to the low 60 and ties for Saturday’s final.