LPGA Tour names like Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam, Dottie Pepper, Lorie Kane and Julie Inkster have come to walk fairways flanked by mesquite and half-century old eucalyptus trees. All the while healthy crowds standby watching and making comparisons of what they would have done if their ball landed where Se Ri's or Lorie's did.
You see Randolph North is a municipal golf course. An oasis for the townsfolk left to them by Railroad tycoon Espes Randolph. Back in the early 1900's Espes Randolph donated the land with the stipulation that it be used strictly for parks and recreations.
Two golf courses, the North and South, arose from that generous donation. The newer of the two courses, the South, was originally built in the middle of the 1900's, was rebuilt in 1995 and renamed after the second head professional Dell Urick. The older North course was first laid out in 1925.
Back in 1925, golfers putted on sand fairways and sand and cottonseed greens. The entire course was sprayed with oil to keep wind from blowing the greens and fairways away. In all, the golf course bore little resemblance to today's lush, tree-lined setting.
Golf back then was a different kind of game then we know today. For one thing, you raked the greens after you were done. Also, playing partners were sometimes questionable. Back then it was not uncommon for rattlesnakes, scorpions or centipedes to join you in a round - whether you liked it or not.
The wife of local pro Dell Urich remembers when the course was finally grassed in 1936 under the direction of golf course architect Billy Bell: 'I believe Mr. Bell made about three or four visits to Tucson during construction,' Mrs. Urich recalls in notes scratched in her own handwriting. 'He stayed with us, and slept on a couch in the club house. 'This all occurred during the `Great Depression' so there was no staying at fancy hotels in those days. Money was scarce, and everyone had to economize.' Randolf North was a product of the times. Bell designed the new layout of the course and labor for the project was supplied courtesy of one of President Roosevelt's many government programs.
In 1933, when Mr. Urick took the job as head pro at Randolph North, greens fees were 50 cents for an 18-hole round. On October 31st, 1936, at the grand opening of the newly grassed course, greens fees shot up to a whopping 75. Today you can play a round for $16 in the summer or $27 in the winter. All things considered, it's still a pretty good deal.
Typical of most municipal golf course, Randolph North features less than perfect playing conditions for most of the year. That is until March when the public course puts forth its' best face for the LPGA Tour.
You see Randolph North has yet another special distinction. It is one of only a precious few municipal golf courses that host a professional golf tournament. This is no small accomplishment considering the size of today's purses.
Under the direction of Golf Course Superintendent Brent Newcomb, 47 part-time crewmembers work many months to prepare the North course for the tournament. All playable areas of the bermudagrass course are over seeded with rye during the winter months.
During tournament week greens are rolled three times a day and all efforts are made to supply the best possible playing conditions.
Newcomb's job is more difficult than that of most superintendents. He operates on a shoestring budget while trying to work miracles with a fleet of run-down Toros and Jacobsens. Seemingly, he does a good job. Although Newcomb has only been at Randolph North for 5 years, the LPGA has returned to this location 21 times.
In the last two decades conditions have improved. Newcomb feels that this year they did a better job of preparing greens and getting the greens up to speed. They also did a better job of building up turf density on the fairways - an improvement that came back to bite them after Wednesday's heavy rains made fairways impossible to mow.
Randolph North's history continues to grow. In 2000, Annika Sorenstam earned her final point into the Hall of Fame - and she did it all right here at the little municipal golf course born form simple, if not sandy, beginnings.