Corporate Golfer: Shoot birdies and machine guns in Phoenix-Scottsdale

By Travel ArticlesMarch 13, 2012, 3:23 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Normally I'm taking aim at a flag stick not a target.

Instead of a golf club, I've got a Glock handgun. Instead of a green fairway, I'm buried deep in the desert -- a secluded, boulder-strewn, cactus-laden landscape.

Zev Nadler, the owner of Desert Wolf Tours, barks out a command to fire.

Pop, pop, pop ... two bullets pierce the body, and one grazes the outline of the head.

This isn't some weird military exercise or gang ritual in the middle of the Arizona desert. It's actually a fun excursion that corporate clients use to experience the sheer beauty and ruggedness of the High Sonoran Desert. Companies such as Google, Wells Fargo, P.F. Chang's, Fosters and Bayer have all used the 'Fire Arms Experience' run by Desert Wolf Tours as a team-building exercise.

'We have catered to more than 6,000 customers from the four and five-star hotels,' adds Nadler, a native of metro Detroit.

Corporate business plays a big part in Scottsdale's tourism industry. The Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau reports that 60 percent of all resort and full-service hotel business results from meetings-related travel. It's not hard to understand why: There's great golf, trendy resorts, major sports venues -- and cool surprises such as the outing with Desert Wolf Tours -- that live and thrive under the Arizona sun. Here's a handful of reasons why you should consider Scottsdale for your next convention or corporate retreat:

The resort life

Scottsdale is hardwired toward keeping people happy. This affluent city ranks third -- after New York City and Las Vegas, respectively -- for having the most AAA Five-Diamond hotels and resorts in the United States.

The Phoenician; the Camelback Inn, a JW Marriott Resort & Spa; Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North; the Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa (in nearby Carefree) and the Fairmont Princess Resort and Spa have all been so honored in recent years. Scottsdale even boasts more spas per capita than anywhere in the country.

These lavish properties are stocked with excellent restaurants. Italian fare comes naturally for the chefs at Il Terrazzo at The Phoenician. La Hacienda serves fine Mexican at The Fairmont, although it's tough to turn down the nearby Bourbon Steak by celebrity chef Michael Mina. The Saguaro, a rebranded hotel downtown, features Distrito, an artsy, eclectic, Mexican cantina where the food is as tasty as the walls are colorful. The nearby Old Town Whiskey, also by chef Jose Garces, is just as delicious with a casual menu and personality.

Scottsdale's resorts remain committed to hosting large groups and events by investing in constant improvements. The 53,000-square-foot, $20-million Palomino Conference Center is on track to open Oct. 11 at the Princess, bringing the resort's meeting space to 150,000 square feet, the largest in the entire Fairmont chain.

More than 120,000 square feet of meeting and event space indoors and out allows flexibility at The Phoenician. Roughly $40 million was spent to add the Camelback Ballroom in 2010.

Golf in Scottsdale

While I was playing the Phoenician's scenic Canyon nine, a larger corporate group was teeing off on the resort's two other nines, Oasis and Desert. Most of Scottsdale's worthwhile golf clubs feature more than 18 holes for flexibility to host larger events.

And many of these clubs -- Boulders Golf Club & Resort, Troon North, Grayhawk Golf Club, Talking Stick, etc. -- are among the best-run facilities in the country. The golf is that good here.

Jay Yule, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, said his group visits Scottsdale every year and always chooses at least one round at Grayhawk.

'We really like it a bunch,' he said. 'We do a survey about the trip when we are done. People always pick this one to come back to. It's a good fit for a whole range of players and high handicaps. (The staff) is really good from when you show up to the end (of our stay). It's a good clubhouse.'

Scottsdale's sports scene

The perfect corporate party takes place in late January/early February in Scottsdale. It's called the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

The 16th hole on the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale, an amphitheater of sky boxes and corporate suites, creates the ultimate board room to negotiate or sign a big deal. If you can't make an impression and a sale in this venue, you're in the wrong business.

The guests hanging out in the sky boxes have a bird's eye view of the shenanigans happening in the bleachers and when the caddies take off in their races to reach the green. The food and drink overflows. The golf is secondary, but it's still great to see a threesome such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler pass with a couple of birdies and some huge roars.

If you need more excitement at night, the Bird's Nest usually rocks a pretty cool concert or two. Or head to Phoenix to watch the NBA's Phoenix Suns play. Spring training heats up later in February with a full schedule of Cactus League games.

The active outdoors

Hiking is a popular outdoor pursuit -- it's super convenient when staying at The Phoenician in the shadow of Camelback Mountain -- but I'd splurge on an excursion with Desert Wolf Tours instead. My day with Desert Wolf combined the best of its 'Fire Arms Experience' and the 'Tomcar Tours.'

Tomcars, cool little two- and four-seat off-road vehicles, were originally developed for use by the Israeli Defense Forces special operations units. Desert Wolf Tours owns a fleet of these vehicles, but you get to drive them deep into the desert over rocks and even a river. I kept expecting to 'find' a shooting range, but we just parked and set up targets in the middle of all those boulders and cacti.

Even if (like me) you've never shot a gun before, the experience feels completely safe and is well run. I actually enjoyed shooting the Glock 17 handgun more than the semi-automatic M16. Mixing golf and guns -- two polar opposites in my book -- in the same weekend? Now that's one memorable corporate retreat.

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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”