Begay's Sewailo Golf Club brings a new look to Tucson

By Mike BaileyDecember 12, 2013, 3:27 pm

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The new Sewailo Golf Club is a championship test with a unique point of view -- one that, perhaps, could only be understood by a Native American who grew up so poor on the west side of Albuquerque that he once bought a pair of women's golf shoes in a yard sale so he could play golf in the summers.

Co-designed by former PGA Tour player-turned Golf Channel commentator Notah Begay III with veteran architect Ty Butler, Sewailo Golf Club became the first new course to open in the Tucson area since The Golf Club at Dove Mountain five years ago. And while Dove Mountain's architect, Jack Nicklaus, might have a little more experience in almost every imaginable way when it comes to golf, Begay has something Nicklaus or the rest of the architects can never understand – perspective.

It's just one aspect that makes Sewailo, which opened on Thursday, so unique.

Begay, a three-sport star in high school, earned a golf scholarship to Stanford, where he not only earned his degree in economics, but was part of a group that went from unranked before he got there to NCAA champion in 1994. And, oh by the way, he also had a pretty famous roommate named Tiger Woods, whom Begay affectionately nicknamed "Urkel" because of the Coke-bottle glasses he wore in college when he didn't have his contacts in.

But Begay has never forgotten his roots or the heritage of his people. As a Native American – Begay is half Navajo and a quarter San Felipe and Isleta – he is passionate about helping his people. His foundation, NB3F, fights childhood obesity and diabetes in the Native American community while promoting fitness and wellness. And as a Native American, he certainly had a deep appreciation for what the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, which also owns accompanying Casino del Sol resort, has been through and wanted to accomplish. In fact, you might say Begay and his NB3 Consulting Company, served as the driving force behind the project. This is Begay's third course; the other two being Sequoyah National in Cherokee, N.C., and Firekeeper Golf Club in Topeka, Kansas.

Begay's vision is evident throughout.


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The 3rd hole at Sewailo Golf Club. 


Sewailo is as much about the story it tries to tell as it is about the 7,400-yard championship layout. The Yaquis, who migrated from Mexico to Arizona more than 2,500 years ago, are said to have come from the "flower land," or Sewailo as it's known in their language. The course illustrates that history.

It starts off lush and green with lakes that evolve into streams. In the second phase of the course, the desert re-emerges, then later, the streams, lakes, and flowers return, just as they did for the tribe after its arrival here, culminating with waterfalls behind the 18th green.

To create the look, Landscapes Unlimited, which has worked with Begay on his previous projects, not only moved thousands of cubic yards of dirt to shape the course and dig out the lakes, but they transplanted more than 30,000 native shrubs and trees. Among the plants are wildflowers, including brittlebush, a desert shrub in the sunflower family. It blooms yellow in the early spring. In a year or two, as the native areas fill in, the course could very well be one of the most colorful in the region.


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As for the course, well, it's a pretty good test. Just announced on Wednesday, the Troon Golf-managed facility, which will soon include a clubhouse and learning center, will serve as the home course of the University of Arizona's men's and women's golf teams and it's not out of the realm of possibility that it lands a Champions or LPGA tour event in the near future.

From the tips, it's all you can handle, but with five sets of tees, the most forward of which lose the forced carries, it's very playable. Wide open, it is, of course, susceptible to the desert winds, and water on 10 holes certainly provide plenty of trouble.

There are also about 65 bunkers on the course, but because they are so large and deep, it seems more like 165. The 14 acres of lakes and one mile of creeks, besides  helping to tell the Yaquis' story, are a key part of the strategy.

"There's a huge amount of fairway, but if you want to improve your chances of scoring, you have to take on the hazards," Begay said.

The greens are large, too, especially the first and the eighth, which combine for 23,900 square feet. Begay drew inspiration from his favorite course – the Old Course at St. Andrews – for that one. Hit it long, and you could be faced with a putt of 150 feet or more.

It's also wise to consult the GPS maps on the golf carts when playing this course for the first time. Landing areas beyond bunkers and short of water hazards aren't always evident off the tee, so driver on every par 4 and par 5 aren't recommended.

As for the memorable holes, there are plenty of them, but Begay's favorite are the par-3 third and par-5 10th.

The third is short, just 150 yards from the back tee, but there's a lake in front of and on both sides of the green, creating an intimidating look akin the 17th at the TPC Sawgrass. Add a little wind and it becomes even scarier.

The 10th is just downright nasty. While Begay and Butler provided generous fairways, some drivable par 4s and birdie opportunities on a couple of other par 5s, they took away most of the golfer's options on the 10th.

It starts with a tee shot that plays around water. The fairway gets more narrow and the water comes more into play the more right you hit it off the tee. But the farther left you hit it, where the fairway is generous, the more difficult the second shot, which much clear a water hazard and work around or over some fairly large fairway bunkers.

"I really love the 10th," Begay said. "There's nowhere to go. You have to hit a shot."

Which is why it's the No. 1 handicap hole.

Green fees, which include cart and the club's outstanding range and short-game area, are opening at $99 during the week and $125 on weekends. Better rates may be available online, and Troon Golf is offering a special three-course package call the Tucson Golf Swing (TucsonGolfSwing.com). The package also includes the mostly private Gallery Golf Club and La Paloma Resort at $299 (Jan. 1-April 14), $199 (April 16-June1) and $139 (June 2-Sept. 1).

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


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While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

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Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

NBC Sports' Coverage of LPGA Tour in 2017 Most-Viewed Season Ever for NBC Sports

By Golf Channel Public RelationsDecember 13, 2017, 8:45 pm

NBC Sports’ LPGA Tour Coverage Ties 2013 for Most-Watched Year Since 2011

NBC and Golf Channel Boast Top-6 Most-Watched Women’s Golf Telecasts in 2017

Beginning with the dramatic playoff finish at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and concluding with Lexi Thompson winning the $1 million Race to the CME Globe, nearly 22 million viewers tuned in to LPGA Tour coverage across Golf Channel and NBC in 2017. This makes 2017 the most-viewed LPGA Tour season across NBC Sports since Golf Channel joined the NBC Sports Group in 2011. Additionally, 2017 tied 2013 as the LPGA Tour’s most-watched year across NBC Sports since 2011. Coverage drew an average of 221,000 viewers per telecast in 2017 (+24% vs. 2016), according to data released by The Nielsen Company.

NBC SPORTS GROUP CLAIMS TOP-6 MOST-WATCHED WOMEN’S GOLF TELECASTS IN ‘17

For the first time ever in televised women’s golf, Sunday’s final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open (Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 1.1 million viewers) delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast of the year. NBC’s Saturday (Day 2) coverage of the Solheim Cup in August placed second with 968,000 viewers, followed by Sunday’s Solheim Cup coverage on NBC with 946,000 viewers. Golf Channel’s live coverage of Sunday’s final day of the Solheim Cup drew 795,000 viewers, the most-watched women’s golf event on cable in eight years.

Rank

Network

Event

Day

Avg. Viewers P2+

1

NBC

RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

Sunday

1,100,526

2

NBC

SOLHEIM CUP

Saturday

968,202

3

NBC

SOLHEIM CUP

Sunday

946,387

4

NBC

KPMG WOMEN'S PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Sunday

839,983

5

NBC

RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

Saturday

808,578

6

GOLF

SOLHEIM CUP

Sunday

795,000

ADDITIONAL VIEWERSHIP MILESTONES FOR WOMEN’S GOLF IN 2017

  • ANA Inspiration - The LPGA’s first major championship delivered thefifth most-watched LPGA final round in Golf Channel history with 551,000 viewers when So Yeon Ryu defeated Lexi Thompson in a playoff following Thompson being assessed a four-stroke penalty earlier in the final round.
  • KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – The LPGA’s second major was seen by 6.6 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the largest audience for the event on record (2006-17). Sunday’s final round on NBC, which saw Danielle Kang win her first LPGA Tour event over defending champion Brooke Henderson, also was the most-watched telecast in the event’s history with 840,000 average viewers.
  • RICOH Women’s British Open – NBC’s Sunday coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast in 2017 (.78 U.S. HH rating, 1.1 million viewers). In total, 7 million unique viewers tuned in to coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, the most-watched RICOH Women’s British Open in the past 10 years and the most-watched among the five women’s major championships in 2017.
  • Solheim Cup – Seen by a total audience of 7.3 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the Solheim Cup posted the largest total audience for women’s golf since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open on ESPN/NBC. Golf Channel’s live coverage of the final day drew 795,000 average viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s golf telecast on cable in the last eight years, since the final day of the 2009 Solheim Cup.

GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL POSTS RECORD STREAMING CONSUMPTION

Golf Channel Digital posted record numbers of LPGA streaming consumption with 11.9 million live minutes streamed across LPGA Tour telecasts in 2017 (+563% vs. 2016).

  • Solheim Cup – Three-day coverage of the Solheim Cup saw 6.3 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports’ Digital platforms, trailing only the 2016 Rio Olympics (9 million) as the most-ever for a women’s golf event airing on Golf Channel / NBC.
  • RICOH Women’s British Open – Four-day coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open saw 2 million minutes streamed, +773% vs. 2016.

NBC Sports Group combined to air 31 LPGA Tour events in 2017 and a total of 420 hours of coverage, the most in LPGA history. The exclusive cable home to the LPGA Tour, Golf Channel aired coverage of four of five women’s major championships in 2017, with three majors also airing on NBC: the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, RICOH Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship. The biennial Solheim Cup also returned to network television for the first time in 15 years with weekend coverage on NBC.

Source: Nielsen 2017 Live+Same Day DVR vs. prior available data. Persons 2+ avg 000’s and/or Persons 2+ reach w/six-minute qualifier. Digital Metrics from Adobe Reports & Analytics. Details available.

Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

“The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

“At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

“Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

“I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

“I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

“This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

“To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

“I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.