Outlaw on the Fairways in Scottsdale

By Rebecca Larsen, Contributor

PHOENIX - Construction has begun on the sixth Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course in the exclusive Desert Mountain community on the northernmost fringes of Scottsdale near Cave Creek.

This private course, tentatively named Outlaw, will be on a piece of property with a gentler slope than is found at the other Nicklaus courses at Desert Mountain and will have more of a links style than a desert-target flavor as do the other five courses. The new par-72 course, playing at about 7,100 yards from the back tees, will be open for members to play in the fall of 2003.

In order to get permission to build Outlaw in water-hungry Scottsdale, Desert Mountain's developer Lyle Anderson and builders of two other possible courses in the area, Golf Club of Scottsdale and Wildcat Hill, are sharing the costs of more than $20 million for a pipeline to bring in what is expected to be a 100-year supply of water from the Central Arizona Project to the Scottsdale, Cave Creek and Carefree area. The water will be used to replenish local groundwater supplies that have been greatly depleted by Arizona's drought; a good deal of the water will be piped eventually to homes in Scottsdale.

With a membership at the private Desert Mountain Golf Club, a golfer can play all six courses at the club. Initiation fees are $225,000; monthly fees are about $525 a month. You have to purchase a home or home site at Desert Mountain in order to join, according to Leslie Tweeton, director of public relations for Desert Mountain. However, buyers of some premium lots - which can sell for $3 million - get the initiation fee thrown in as an incentive.

There's a little bit of a controversy though about that name "Outlaw," which some in the enclave of multi-multi-million dollar homes find a bit disorderly, even though it fits in with the Western sound of the names of the other courses: Chiricahua, Apache, Renegade, Cochise and Geronimo.

"It suggests a notorious criminal or something illegal," one resident told the Arizona Republic. Maybe she's heard about that Xbox video game "Outlaw Golf," in which players can get better scores by beating up on their caddies or smashing auto windshields.

"Yes, the name is something of an issue," Tweeton responds. "Some of the traditionalists among the members love the Indian names."

Tweeton says developer Lyle Anderson wanted a somewhat different name like Outlaw because this course will be a different style from the others and is in a somewhat different area.

"Lyle loved the name Outlaw, and a year ago he did polling among the staff to get some feedback and most of the staff was really positive about it. But our president, Jon Underwood, says that if the people think the name is terrible, we'll have to change it."

For more information about Desert Mountain and its courses, call 800-255-5519. Desert Mountain Associates Inc. is located at 37700 N. Desert Mountain Parkway in Scottsdale.

Phoenix Open still searches for sponsor

The Phoenix Open draws the biggest live audience of any PGA golf tour event in the country, but it has yet to find a sponsor for next year - a problem that is plaguing a number of other PGA events for next year as well, according to the Phoenix tournament chairman.

In any case, there will be a Phoenix Open 2003, says Peter Kuehner, who is running the tournament next year for the Phoenix Thunderbirds, a service organization that puts on the tournament every year at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) of Scottsdale and then distributes some of its proceeds to charities in the Phoenix area.

"We're not unlike 10 other regular tour events that don't have sponsors yet," Kuehner says. "But we're still negotiating with five or six folks, and we hope that by early September we'll be able to sign a contract with someone."

The tournament will go on no matter what happens, but lack of a sponsor, asked to make a $25 million to $30 million commitment over the life of the contract, could cause some serious problems. "It clearly affects our charitable giving. We might not be able to give any money to our charities," Kuehner says. "And we may have to go into debt."

The open, held at the end of January, not only draws massive turnout among golf fans from the Phoenix area, but it also marks the beginning of the winter tourist season. It's a huge boon to local motels, restaurants and tourist-oriented businesses. Last year's tournament was won by Chris DiMarco. Past winners have included Tom Lehman and Phil Mickelson.

The Thunderbirds may have to negotiate the TV contract themselves with CBS, Kuehner says, and then sell the TV ad spots individually.

How did this situation develop? It's not that a bunch of sponsors have decided to dump golf tournaments, according to Kuehner. "These are trying economic times unfortunately, that we're experiencing right now," he says. "But what's really going on is that PGA Tour agreements are typically for four years, most of them from 1999 to 2002, and they have come up for renegotiation."

Xerox, previous sponsor of the Phoenix Open, chose to pull out. "It's not that these sponsors have dropped out," Kuehner says. "They just chose not to re-up. The tournaments just had bad timing on the duration of their contracts. A very few were negotiated from 2001 to 2004."

Other tournaments held in the Valley of the Sun are experiencing similar problems. The LPGA's Ping tournament at the Moon Valley Country Club needs a new co-sponsor. The Senior Tour's major, the Tradition, held this year at Superstition Mountain, also needs a sponsor.

The Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau has also dropped its own sponsorship for two Canadian Tour events that were held in the area this past spring. Known as the "Scottsdale Swing," the tournaments were held at McCormick Ranch and the Golf Club at Eagle Mountain.

Rebecca LarsenRebecca Larsen, Contributor

Rebecca Larsen is a former features and assistant features editor for the Marin Independent Journal, a medium-sized daily paper located north of San Francisco. She has also worked for the Milwaukee Journal and for a Chicago public relations firm. She has a bachelor's in journalism from Northwestern University and a master's from the University of California at Berkeley.

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