Ahead of the Game: Tucson may land big tournament - The Explorer: Import

Ahead of the Game: Tucson may land big tournament

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Posted: Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:00 am | Updated: 7:52 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

January 25, 2006 - What did you do with your sports weekend? If you were one of the lucky 14,621 poeple who scored tickets to the UA men's hoops, then you probably had a pretty good - albeit rollercoaster - weekend as a spectator.

Maybe you caught the Harlem Globetrotters at the Tucson Convention Center or the UA alumni baseball game at Sancet Field. Chances are many of you took to the links to play a round or two of golf.

For those fans who love nothing more than to kick back on a sunny afternoon and watch world class golf, your day is coming, and perhaps sooner than you think.

It's beginning to look pretty good that the Accenture Match Play Championships will be relocating to Tucson and, more specifically, the Northwest, possibly as early as next year.

At a press conference on Jan. 17, Tom Lehman, whose firm redesigned a major portion of the Omni Tucson National Golf Course, stated that Tucson was a shoo-in to get the very tourney that once threatened to destroy PGA golf as a spectator sport in Tucson altogether.

"From what I've heard, Tucson is going to get it," said Lehman referring to 2007. "I'm not sure evena if it's a question of if, but when."

Tucson and its surrounding parts need the Accenture Match Play if the city wants to be considered a major player on the world golf scene. With more than 40 courses around the county, golf is as much a part of the Southwest as cacti and burritos.

The Chrysler Classic and all of its accoutrements are a good time, but aren't, to use a golf cliché, on par with the rest of the golf world without the best golfers the sport has to offer.

The World Match play would guarantee the top 64 golfers in the world, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh, to name a few. Currently, the popular Match Play Championships are being held in Carlsbad, Calif.

Tucson has long been losing out on major tournaments and mostly due to its neighbor to the north, Phoenix, if only for its sheer ability to host a tournament the size of the Match Play.

Phoenix is already the home to two PGA stops - the Tommy Bahama Challenge and the FBR Open, both in Scottsdale.

There are some Phoenix hand-me-downs coming south on I-10, but at what cost? A look back at Tucson history reveals events and teams such as the Copper Bowl-Fiesta Bowl-Insight.com Bowl conglomerate and the Cleveland Indians packing its bags for Phoenix.

Phoenix even swiped pro bowling from Tucson, hosting the PBA-Motel 6 Phoenix Classic on Valentine's Day. Two years ago, that tournament used to belong to Tucson when it was known as the PBA Odor-Eaters Open.

No one enjoys the stink of being considered second rate in your own state.

Sure, Phoenix kicked down the Diamondbacks and White Sox, World Series winners in 2001 and 2005 respectively. Tucson even landed the Phoenix Suns training camp and a new practice facility sure to perpetuate the construction that already plagues the UA campus.

But still, major league franchises and events continue to elude Tucson.

The World Match Play's motto this season is "The World Is Watching." Well, for once why can't it be Tucson they are watching?

Granted, with swarms of galleries expected to follow Tiger, Phil and, to a lesser extent, John Daly, finding places to park and put up what could be up to 100,000 people for the week may prove difficult.

But that's another issue for another day.

Tucson is losing out on these tourneys because Phoenix has long outgrown its neighbor to the southeast. But rest assured Tucson fans, there is one thing that the Old Pueblo has over Phoenix: At least Tucson isn't home of the NFL's Cardinals.

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