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).

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Woods now listed as Masters betting favorite

By Will GraySeptember 24, 2018, 12:03 am

Now officially a winner again on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods has become a popular bet for folks thinking about next year's Masters.

The trip down Magnolia Lane is still seven months away, but Woods' breakthrough victory at the Tour Championship has led bettors to flock to the window to lay down cash on the four-time champ to add green jacket No. 5 next spring at age 43.

Woods was listed at 12/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook when odds opened after the PGA Championship, behind only 2015 champ Jordan Spieth. That's where he remained for the subsequent six weeks, but after a stirring performance at East Lake Golf Club he's now listed as the 9/1 betting favorite for the first major of 2019.

Here's a look at the latest odds via the Westgate, as many of the top contenders head to Paris for the Ryder Cup:

9/1: Tiger Woods

10/1: Jordan Spieth

12/1: Dustin Johnson

14/1: Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas

16/1: Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler

18/1: Jon Rahm

20/1: Jason Day

25/1: Bubba Watson

30/1: Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, Tony Finau

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Woods caps comeback season with win No. 80

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2018, 12:01 am

ATLANTA – When the last chapter is penned in the groundbreaking and infinitely complicated life of Tiger Woods, Sept. 23, 2018, is sure to get lost in the talking points.

His two-stroke victory at the Tour Championship on Sunday was impressive by any measure, but it wouldn’t qualify as his most dominant or his most clinical performance. If we’re being honest, his 80th PGA Tour bottle cap was like so many others, a battle of attrition that never allowed for a modicum of doubt.

There was a three-stroke lead to start the day, a birdie at the first to pad his advantage and a parade of nondescript pars that gave the season’s final round a marching band to nowhere feel. Given the gravity of what was a seminal moment in his career it felt so mundane, but then that’s always been the hallmark of his greatness.

After four back surgeries, four knee surgeries, an arrest for driving under the influence and more cringe moments than an episode of "America’s Got Talent," this victory was so much more than the sum of its parts.

Social media was abuzz in the aftermath of Woods’ walk-off. From the depths of pain, pedestrian performances and poor choices Tiger put an exclamation point on what was already a successful return.

It had some calling this the greatest comeback in the history of sports, but then the car Woods was driving last Memorial Day only bounced off a few curbs, not a bus.

To be historically aware, Ben Hogan’s comeback after nearly dying in a car crash in 1949, a horrific event that was followed by a run that included eight major victories, should be considered the category leader on this front.

But as Tiger whipped a day’s worth of sweat from his face and considered his answer the more relevant question is where the 2018 Tour Championship ranks on his own lifetime resume.


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“It's certainly up there with obviously all the major championships I've won, Players, World Golf Championships. But this is under different circumstances,” said Woods, who closed with a 71 at East Lake for his first Tour victory since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. “I just didn't know whether this would ever happen again.”

Woods is normally averse to this type of nostalgia, but even if he wanted to take a deeper dive it’s not a debate that lends itself to instant analysis. When your career has been a nonstop highlight reel of fist pumps and unforgettable moments there’s no easy way to rank greatness.

For some, the 1997 Masters, his first major championship, stands alone as a career high-water mark; while others may lean toward the 2000 U.S. Open where he lapped the field by 15 strokes.

“Those were special because of the way he did it,” said Butch Harmon, Tiger’s swing coach from August 1993 to August 2002. But for Harmon the Tour Championship was different. “He had a chance to win the last two majors. It’s impressive that just two years ago he couldn’t pitch the ball on the green. It’s not exactly Ben Hogan, but it’s along those lines.”

As far as clinical brilliance, most would say the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool is the benchmark. It was Tiger’s first victory after his father, Earl, died following a brutal bout with cancer and was nothing short of a ball-striking show.

“That was his best ball-striking tournament he’s ever had. That’s a different deal,” said Hank Haney, who served as Tiger’s second set of eyes from March 2004 to May 2010.

But it’s the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines that may stand as the competitive and physical pinnacle of Tiger’s career. On a broken leg with a torn ACL he endured 72 grueling holes to finish tied with Rocco Mediate and eventually prevailed on the first hole of a sudden death playoff after 18 holes on Monday.

“That’s No. 1, it’s not even close,” Haney said. “He didn’t win [at East Lake] with a broken leg. At the U.S. Open he won on one leg. It is unbelievable that he came back from four back operations, but once you’ve established that you’re back and you’re healthy you knew he’s going to win. A lot of things had to happen, he got off the prescription drugs and got his back healthy. But I felt like this was going to happen and he’s not done.”

But if the ’08 U.S. Open is the standard by which Tiger’s career will always be measured, his performance at East Lake deserves to be considered with a wider lens. This wasn’t about fairways hit or birdies made, this was about rounding a corner many never imagined he could.

At his darkest moments last year there was doubt he’d ever be able to swing a golf club again, never mind throw an 11-under total at the world’s best. The game had passed him by the critics claimed and even if he did find his way off the surgeon’s table the current cast and crew were a different breed who would be immune to his dominant ways and the aura he once held over the game.

This wasn’t Hoylake in ’06 or Pebble Beach in ’00, but in many ways it was better. There’s nothing better in sports than a comeback story and Tiger’s journey from a broken and burdened man to beaming on a final green is nothing short of a reinvention.

“The world is full of people who want to see a comeback story. We’re all coming back from something, so when you see someone do it inspires people to fight through it,” said Sean Foley, who stepped in for Haney in August 2010 and served as Woods’ swing coach until August 2014.

It was only last summer that the most common image of Tiger was a mug shot taken after his DUI arrest. The grainy image looking back at the world was a testament to how far he’d fallen, an unshaven and blurry-eyed shadow of the player who once seemed so untouchable. He couldn’t play golf, he couldn’t even ride in a golf cart his back hurt so bad, and his inability to do the one thing he was truly great at left Tiger to his own devices.

As he recovered from fusion surgery on his lower back he began to miss the game and the things that he’d done to transform it. As he returned, slowly at first before picking up the pace this summer, he allowed the world to see a different side, a player who was appreciative of what amounted to a final chance to be great.

There was emotion on Sunday and unbridled joy. His first victory in five years may defy assessment, but for Tiger there was so much more to his week in Atlanta than the history books could ever reveal.

“It's totally different because of what he’s been through, but I’d have to put [his victory at East Lake] up there with one of his greatest victories ever because of what he’s been through, the mental and physical, the disgrace,” Harmon said.

Maybe the 2018 Tour Championship won’t go down as Tiger’s masterpiece when he hangs up his Nikes. Maybe what awaits will be the true measure of his genius.

“The greatest accomplishment in sports is going to be when he’s No. 1 again and that’s going to be pretty soon,” Haney said. “When he returns to No. 1 it won’t be a debate.”

With fans stacked five and six rows deep along every fairway, probably the biggest crowd East Lake has seen since Bobby Jones was stalking the rolling hills, Tiger played the script he invented, a bullish version of what Stewart Cink once called a prevent defense.

The only change to this all-too-familiar routine was the pregnant pause he allowed himself after putting out on the 18th hole, slamming his putter into the ground and raising his arms in triumph.

In a historic twist it was the same green where Jones, who pulled off an impressive comeback of his own once, ended his golf career. It was only apropos that Tiger would complete his comeback and restart his career on the same spot.

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Woods: Support from Tour friends 'meant a lot to me'

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 23, 2018, 11:54 pm

ATLANTA – As Tiger Woods approach the 18th green on Sunday at the Tour Championship, with thousands of fans – literally – breathing down his neck, Davis Love III crouched down inside the ropes, on top of a mound to take it all in. He was joined by Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson.

Rickie Fowler was waiting. Tommy Fleetwood was watching from the clubhouse balcony. Paul Casey was there. So, too, were Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas.

They all wanted to witness Woods win for the first time in five physically debilitating, at times personally destructive, years. They wanted to congratulate, not just a peer, but a friend.

What that meant to Woods, well, he tried to describe. But words don’t do justice what the support of others means to someone who has been through so much.

“The people who are close to me saw the struggles and what I was going through, and some of the players that I'm pretty close to, they've really helped throughout this process and the last few years,” Woods said. “Their support and some of those things that they said coming off that last green meant a lot to me.”


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Of course, all of these players have one thing in common: They are all headed to Paris for this Ryder Cup, either as players or vice captains.

There were 17 Ryder Cup players in the 30-man Tour Championship field – 11, including Woods, on the U.S. side.

The Americans were set to take a charter flight to France on Sunday night. That means everyone aboard will get to partake in the celebrations. And Tiger will get to enjoy the camaraderie, something lacking from the years when he won 79 PGA Tour events.

“Flying tonight with the guys, it’s going to be fun,” Woods said.

“I think we’re all going to sleep well.”

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TT Postscript: Finally, officially, Tiger Woods is back

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 23, 2018, 11:47 pm

ATLANTA, Ga. – He’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack. Here are some things I think I think after watching Tiger Woods end a five-year winless drought and capture his 80th career PGA Tour victory Sunday at the Tour Championship.

• There’s only one place to start. That walk down 18. Tiger Woods leading throngs of maniacs (and me) into an arena only he can create, only he can star in, only he can thrive in. That was a security nightmare, and I’m sure whatever entities hold the insurance policies on Tiger and Rory were pulling their corporate hair out, but that was a scene you can’t really stage. A scene you can’t recreate. Not like that. Not with that level of exaltation. Every single person who has followed Tiger Woods’ career – every single person who loves the game of golf – felt like they were following Tiger in that crowd up 18. Regardless of whether you root for him or against him, you know no one else in the game can create a spectacle like that. After the surgeries, and the scandals, and the personal demons, Tiger Woods teared up, tapped in, put his arms in the air, and soaked in a kind of redemption none of us will ever fully understand.

• He admitted he almost cried twice on the way in. He almost cried in the crowd en route to the front bunker, and he almost cried after Rory McIlroy ceded the stage on the 72nd green. For years, he was invulnerable. Impenetrable. That was his aura. That aura was later shattered at too many different points along the way. There was a popular thought that Tiger Woods couldn’t be Tiger Woods without that same air of invincibility – that edge. But on Sunday, the golf world and Tiger himself saw that he could be vulnerable and a champion. Notah Begay perhaps put it best when he suggested on Golf Central that Tiger could, moving forward, strike a balance between playing with an edge and playing with a sense of gratitude.



• That gratitude seems genuine, too. He thought he was done. More than that, at his lowest point, he didn’t know what was going to be left of his life.

“Am I going to be able to sit, stand, walk, lay down without feeling the pain that I was in? I just didn't want to live that way,” he said in the interview room. “This is how the rest of my life is going to be? It's going to be a tough rest of my life. And so – I was beyond playing. I couldn't sit. I couldn't walk. I couldn't lay down without feeling the pain in my back and my leg.”

Now the roars, the support, the embrace, the victory – it all means a little more. Tiger Woods seems like a guy who took everything he had for granted, faced down the possibility of losing it all, and came out on the other end.


Final FedExCup standings

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• As for what exactly he really went through, maybe we’ll never know. Maybe we’ll never know how deep and dark that hole went. But clearly there’s an inner circle that knows. And that includes some of Tiger’s colleagues on Tour.

“You know, the people who are close to me saw the struggles and what I was going through, and some of the players that I'm pretty close to, they've really helped throughout this process and the last few years,” he said. “Their support and some of those things that they said coming off that last green meant a lot to me.”

• Tiger has been the face of golf for the last two decades. And that’s why it’s so weird to think that anyone can conceive of him as anything other than the most dominant player in the history of the game. But his kids are young enough that they really don’t know. Hearing him discuss his family Sunday night was both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

“I think they understand a little bit of what Dad does now. I hadn't won any tournaments in which they can remember, so I think this will be a little bit different for them. … A lot of times they equated golf to pain because every time I did it, I would hurt, and it would cause me more pain. And so now they're seeing a little bit of joy and seeing how much fun it is for me to be able to do this again.”

• So where do we go from here? To Paris, where Tiger through a wry smile suggested that everyone is going to sleep well on the U.S. plane tonight. Uh huh.

• But what’s next in that big-picture sense? Does he pass Sam? Does he catch Jack? Hell, I don’t know. I never thought we’d get to this point again. And neither did he. Maybe it’ll never get any better than this. But you know, it just might.