Spring Fling: Cactus League baseball and awesome golf in sunny Arizona

By Travel ArticlesMarch 13, 2012, 3:30 am

MESA, Ariz. -- If it's March in Arizona, getting into the swing of things has two meanings: Baseball and golf.

It's the perfect double-header for a sports fan. Play a round of golf at any of the Valley's great courses in the morning, and then hit a Cactus League game in the afternoon.

The best part: There are so many terrific golf clubs in the Valley of the Sun that golfers can play just about anywhere and have no more than a 30-minute drive to the nearest Cactus League ballpark.

So, without further ado, here's a geographic guide to the best golf/baseball combo the Valley has to offer.


The Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians train at Goodyear Ballpark in the far West Valley, and there are several quality courses nearby.

A few miles south is the Golf Club of Estrella, designed by Jack Nicklaus Jr. It's an underrated desert course, but be forewarned: The 83 deep-faced bunkers can be extremely hazardous to a golfer's score.

The Raven Golf Club at Verrado in nearby Buckeye is a must-play course. Located at the foot of the White Tank Mountains, Verrado was named one of the 'Top 10 New Golf Courses You Can Play' by Golf Magazine when it opened in January 2004.


Home to the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres, Peoria and its surrounding neighbors on the west side offer several quality courses.

Try the Trilogy Golf Club at Vistancia, a Gary Panks five-star design that is light on the checkbook.

Or head a few miles north to the Carefree Highway and check out Quintero Golf Club, formerly a private club that's now open to public play. Quintero has the most spectacular collection of par 3s in the Valley, and the conditions are always impeccable.


Another West Valley spring training site -- the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals play at Surprise Stadium -- and more courses to check out.

About 15 minutes south lie the three courses at Wigwam Resort. There's not a cactus on the property. Instead, its trio of courses are nestled among rolling hills, parkland trees, lakes, canals and streams.

If you can only play one, try Wigwam's Gold Course, a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that is 7,430 yards from the tips.


The Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox train at Camelback Ranch, which is a couple of three-irons away from University of Phoenix Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, and Jobing.com Arena, home of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Golfers can't go wrong with any of the previously mentioned courses in the West Valley, but they can also go a few miles south and east and try the Raven Golf Club near South Mountain. There's no other course like it in the Valley; more than 7,000 pine trees were imported to give the Raven a Southern, parkland feel.


The Milwaukee Brewers play on the west side, in the suburb of Maryvale. Golfers won't find a lot of high-end courses in the area, but Maryvale Golf Course is a municipal that's well worth the few bucks it costs to play. The tree-lined course has several doglegs but is far easier than many of the Valley's top-flight courses.

The Oakland A's are based at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, and there's no shortage of quality courses nearby. Karsten Golf Course is a classic Pete Dye links-style course that is located just across the street from Arizona State University.

Karsten is known for its mounding in the fairways and one of the best finishing stretches in the Valley. No. 16 is a 248-yard par 3, No. 17 a 581-yard par 5 and No. 18 a 471-yard par 4.


It's fitting that this golf mecca now hosts three Cactus League teams: The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, and the San Francisco Giants a few miles south at Scottsdale Stadium.

Salt River Fields is just across the freeway from the Talking Stick Resort and its two courses. The North Course is links-style golf, the South Course a more traditional tree-lined layout.

Drive a few miles north, and the possibilities are endless. There's the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale, site of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. You'll imagine the crowd and hear the boos as you play the par-3 16th. Troon North is pricey, but the Monument Course and Pinnacle Course are arguably the best the Valley has to offer.


The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play at Tempe Diablo Stadium, and golfers will want to check out the Raven at South Mountain, just a few miles away on Baseline Road, and the two courses at Whirlwind Golf Club.

The two Gary Panks designs at Whirlwind, Cattail and Devil's Claw, are located on the Gila River Indian reservation and are as much a history lesson of American Indian culture as they are golfing adventures.


No Cactus League team -- with the possible exception of the Diamondbacks -- are as popular as the Chicago Cubs, who play at HoHokam Park.

Two Mesa golf courses should have favored status as well: Red Mountain Ranch Country Club is a Pete Dye design that is much tougher than its length (6,653 yards) would suggest because the mounding around the greens makes approach shots, well, Dye-abolical.

Longbow Golf Club isn't visually spectacular -- it's situated in the flight path of Falcon Field Airport -- but the Ken Kavanaugh design is a simple, straightforward course whose best feature is its lightning-quick greens.

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Kerr blows big lead, heads into Kia Sunday one back

By Associated PressMarch 25, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr blew a five-stroke lead Saturday in the Kia Classic to set up a final-round showdown at Aviara Golf Club.

A day after shooting an 8-under 64 to open the big lead, Kerr had a 75 to drop a stroke behind playing partner Lizette Salas, Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim. Kerr was tied with Caroline Hedwall, Wei-Ling Hsu and Cindy LaCrosse, and four players were another shot back.

The 40-year-old Kerr had a double bogey on the par-4 15th after snap-hooking a drive into the trees. The 2015 winner at Aviara, she also had two bogeys and two birdies.

Ji had a 67 to match Salas (69) and Kim (69) at 11-under 205. Salas had a chance to pull away, but missed birdie putts of 1 1/2 feet on the short par-4 16th and 2 1/2 feet on the par-5 17th.

Anna Nordqvist had a 66 to top the group at 9 under.

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Match Play Final Four set to bring the excitement

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Sunday’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will include a pair of Georgia Bulldogs, a two-and-done phenom from Alabama and a Swede from Stockholm via Stillwater, that would be Oklahoma.

Just like that other tournament, right?

Actually, for all the volatility in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, it’s not even in the same league as this year’s Match Play, where just a single player who began the week seeded inside the top 10 is still playing.

But what the event may lack in star power it’s certainly made up for with stellar performances, starting with Justin Thomas who is the PGA Tour’s most avid Alabama fan and the tournament’s second-seeded player.

After not losing a match in three days of pool play, Thomas again cruised through his morning Round-of-16 bout with Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5; but found himself in an unfamiliar position early in his quarterfinal match against Kyle Stanley.

Having not trailed during any point in his matches this week, Thomas bogeyed the second hole to fall behind.

“I was hoping to never trail this whole week. I thought that was unbelievable that [2017 champion Dustin Johnson] did it last year,” Thomas said. “I'm going out there this afternoon, and I was like, ‘Man, I have got a chance of doing this, too.’ Then I missed a 3-footer on 2 and shot that out the window.”

The world’s second-ranked player was nearly perfect the rest of the way, regaining the lead with three birdies in four holes starting at No. 5 and closing Stanley out with a bogey-free finish.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

It’s all part of an impressive turnaround for Thomas, who had been slowed in recent weeks by dental surgery followed by a bout with the flu, which nearly prompted him to miss the Match Play.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” said Thomas, who can unseat Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking if he advances to the championship match. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

His improved health has dovetailed with his increasingly better play at Austin Country Club and he’s now two matches away from winning his first World Golf Championship.

Like the NCAA tournament, however, being one of the last four standing only means more work, and Thomas will have plenty to keep him busy when he sets out early Sunday in a semifinal match against Bubba Watson.

Although Watson hasn’t been as dominant as Thomas, his ability to overpower any course, any time, has been evident this week following victories over Brian Harman, 2 and 1, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5 and 3, on his way to the Final Four.

“When you're hitting an 8-iron and another guy is hitting a 7- or another guy is hitting a 6-iron, obviously that's going to change everything,” said Watson, who played his college golf at Georgia. “It's like LeBron James, when he jumps, he jumps higher than I do, so it's an advantage. When you're hitting the driver good and those guys you're naming, they're known for hitting the driver pretty well, just like Thomas is doing right now, he's been hammering it. Anytime that you're hitting the driver somewhat straight, it's an advantage.”

But if Bubba is a familiar foe for Thomas, he may want to do a quick Google search to fill in the blanks on one of his potential final opponents.

While Alex Noren is still a relatively unknown player to many American fans (and that’s certain to change in September at the Ryder Cup), it’s only because they haven’t been paying attention. The Swede, who attended Oklahoma State, has been dominant this week, sweeping the group stage followed by a 5-and-3 victory over Patrick Reed in the Sweet 16 and a 4-and-2 triumph over Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

“I've always liked match play because the outcome is quite direct,” said Noren, who will face Kevin Kisner in the semifinals. “In match play, you've just got to be really focused all the time and anything can happen. And then you have to play good each round. You can't just give up a round and then think you've got three more.”

But if a JT vs. Noren final would be the perfect Ryder Cup primer, the dream match up for Thomas in the championship tilt might be Kisner.

Kisner lost a friendly wager to Thomas earlier this year at the Sony Open when Alabama defeated Georgia in the NCAA National Championship football game and he had to wear an Alabama jersey while he played the 17th hole on Thursday.

Kisner would certainly appreciate the chance at a mulligan. And the way the duo have been rolling in birdie putts this week, it has the potential to be just as entertaining as that other tournament.

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Up one, Stricker hunting second Champions title

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 11:48 pm

BILOXI, Miss. - Steve Stricker moved into position for his second straight PGA Tour Champions victory, shooting a 3-under 69 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead in the Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Stricker won the Cologuard Classic three weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona, for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour. He tied for 12th the following week in the PGA Tour's Valspar Championship.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

Stricker had a 7-under 137 total at Fallen Oak, the Tom Fazio-designed layout with big, speedy greens.

The 51-year-old Wisconsin player bogeyed Nos. 2-3, rebounded with birdies on Nos. 6-7, birdied the par-4 12th and eagled the par-5 13th. He has six top-three finishes in eight career senior starts.

First-round leader Joe Durant followed his opening 66 with a 72 to drop into a tie for second with Jeff Sluman (67).

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Thomas can take world No. 1 with win over Watson

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 11:29 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On March 7, Justin Thomas had his wisdom teeth removed, and just when he was recovering from that, he was slowed by a bout with the flu.

In total, he estimates he lost about seven pounds, and he admitted on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the event.

“I had a pretty serious conversation with my dad on Monday if I was going to play,” Thomas said. “I never want to play in a tournament, first off, if it's going to hurt my health. If I was sick or really sick, me trying to play this week wasn't going to do me any good.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

Thomas went on to explain he was “50/50” whether he’d play the World Golf Championship, but decided to make the start and it’s turned out well for the world’s second-ranked player.

After going undefeated in pool play, Thomas cruised past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the round of 16 and secured himself a spot in the semifinals with a 2-and-1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. If Thomas wins his semifinal match against Bubba Watson on Sunday, he’s assured enough points to overtake Dustin Johnson atop the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I don't care when it happens; I just hope it happens and it happens for a while,” Thomas said when asked about the possibility of becoming world No. 1. “I don't know what to say because I've never experienced it. I don't know what's going to come with it. But I just hope it happens tomorrow.”