Mixed Team Event Set for Arizona National
early May, the American Junior Golf Association will conduct
an event like none other in golf when it stages the inaugural
I.R.I. Arizona National Mixed Team Championship hosted by
Annika Sorenstam and Jim Furyk.
The tournament will be held at Arizona National Golf Club
in Tucson, Ariz., home of the University of Arizona where
Sorenstam and Furyk once starred. Duos of one boy and one
girl will compete in 54 holes of stroke play with a different
team scoring format for each round.
“The AJGA is trying to create some different formats
that are fun, unique and will get our members excited about
the upcoming season,” said Stephen Hamblin, AJGA executive
Not since the PGA and LPGA Tours gathered annually for their
mixed team event, the JC Penney Classic, has there been an
event that combines genders the way the AJGA will in May.
For the second straight year, the AJGA will look to the I.R.I.
Golf Group as a partner in bringing national junior golf to
Tucson. This year will mark the second straight year that
Arizona National has served as the site of an AJGA event—and
both parties couldn’t be happier about it.
“We have plans to make this a long-term and prestigious
event,” said Jeff Silverstein, chairman of the I.R.I.
Golf Group, which owns and operates Arizona National and 18
other golf courses across the country.
Home to the University of Arizona, Tucson is a relaxed but
growing town of 900,000 residents and 35,000 students. Its
Old West desert charm is palpable in every corner of the city.
Also calling Tucson and Arizona National home are the Arizona
Wildcats’ golf teams.
“We’re proud to have such a great facility as
our home course,” said Greg Allen, head women’s
golf coach at the University of Arizona. “And we’re
always proud to show it off—whether it’s to other
college teams when we host our tournaments, to young junior
golfers or to the average golfer.”
Name: I.R.I. Arizona National Mixed Team
Championship hosted by Annika Sorenstam and Jim
Location: Tucson, Ariz.
Golf Course: Arizona National Golf
Dates: May 7-9, 2004
Designer: Robert Trent Jones, Jr.
Yardage: 6,776 yards
Field Size: 72; 36 teams of one
boy and one girl
Format: 54-hole mixed team; Rd.
1: Modified Scotch, Rd. 2: foursome, Rd. 3: four-ball
Course Opened: 1996
Noteworthy: Arizona National is
the home of the University of Arizona’s NCAA
golf teams and their two national tournaments…
The course was known as The Raven Golf Club at Sabino
Springs until June 2002 when the I.R.I. Golf Group
purchased the facility… Former AJGA members
Erica Blasberg, Henry Liaw, Whitney Welch, Chris
Nallen and Lani Elston currently call Arizona National
home… LPGA stars Lorena Ochoa and Natalie
Gulbis and 2002 U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes
competed for the Wildcats at Arizona National.
National annually serves as the site of two national college
events—the Wildcat Invitational for women and the PING-Arizona
Intercollegiate for men.
A number of AJGA alumni currently compete collegiately for
Arizona including Erica Blasberg, Henry Liaw, Lani Elston
and Chris Nallen.
Sorenstam, the reigning LPGA Player of the Year and winner
of the 2003 McDonald’s LPGA Championship, competed at
Arizona from 1990 to 1992 before turning professional following
her sophomore season.
Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and an AJGA alumnus, competed
for the Wildcats from 1988 to 1992 and was named an honorable
mention All-American in 1989 and 1990.
In addition to professional stars Sorenstam and Furyk lending
their names and support to the event, tournament officials
are going to great lengths to make the inaugural event special.
Teams will compete in three different scoring formats over
the course of the tournament. The opening round will be scored
in the modified Scotch format, the second round will be alternate
shot foursome, while the final round is a four-ball competition.
Also contributing to the quality of the event will be the
condition of the course. Traditionally, early May is among
the finest times of year for desert golf in Arizona, Silverstein
“The golf course will be set up like a major championship,”
Silverstein said. “The greens will be slick and the
rough will be up. It’s a time of year when you can do
a lot with the golf course because everything is growing and
the weather is not too hot.”
Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Arizona National is nestled
against the foothills of Southern Arizona’s Santa Catalina
Mountains. The adjacent mountainside is dotted with countless
giant Saguaro cacti, whose blossom is the official state flower.
Its location just above Tucson allows for spectacular views
of Arizona’s second largest city and the surrounding
desert that stretches all the way to Mexico. While the scenery
can be breathtaking at Arizona National, it is the golf that
will leave most players in awe.
“This golf course is in one of the most striking locations
you’ll ever see,” Allen said of his team’s
home course. “But it’s the challenge it presents
that will make it so special for the juniors.”
The course’s signature hole, the par-5 eleventh, is
the longest hole on the course at 625 yards from the back
tees and 550 from the middle tees. The fairway runs downhill—giving
players the hope for a never-ending drive as a well-placed
tee shot will seem to roll endlessly. A desert waste area
sits just short of the green, guarding it against those brave
souls hoping to reach it in two shots.
list of rave reviews for Arizona National stretches long like
a 600-yard par-5. The Arizona Republic listed it among its
top five courses in the state. GolfWorld magazine said the
course “is what desert golf should be,” while
Golf magazine called Arizona National “one of the best
desert courses ever built."
columnist Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star consistently
rates Arizona National as one of the area’s finest facilities
and calls it “a ridiculously beautiful piece of turf
between Sabino Canyon and the Catalina Highway.”
Come May, the nation’s top juniors will be able to add
their own reviews to the course’s resume.