31st Trans-Mississippi Four-Ball Championships
Kevin Cannon & Jeff Smith Boom at Desert Mountain
A Publication of the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association - Vol. 29, No. 4 - Winter 2011
cottsdale’s Kevin Cannon spent six years working at Desert Mountain Golf Club. That experience paid big dividends during September’s Trans-Mississippi Golf Association Four-Ball Championships as Cannon made 10 birdies in an opening-round 63 that started he and partner Jeff Smith on the path to victory in the 31st annual event.
“I tied my career low; I had 10 birdies and a bogey,” said the 36-year-old Cannon, a former golf professional now working as a hospice liaison for Smith’s company in Phoenix. “It was just one of those days that I made a lot of putts and if I didn’t make them they were burning the edges. Geronimo has always been my favorite course up here so when we’re playing it I’m out here having fun. I hadn’t played the course in a while but I knew it pretty well. I’ve played a lot of golf out here but it had been a while. “I told Jeff, ‘I’m not working. I’m playing golf, with great company, on a great course.’ I just want to thank Jeff for inviting me to play with him. For me I was just a big kid in Disneyland.” Smith and Cannon, after their nine-under-par round on the Geronimo course, would add six-under 66 on Cochise the following day and then hang-on for a one-under 71 as they made their way around the Geronimo layout in the final round and claim a one-shot victory over two teams. “Kevin’s a great player and basically carried us to victory here…it’s just a fun team; we had a great time,” said Smith, 48 and a member at Desert Mountain. “The Trans is a great organization and they put on a great tournament. I couldn’t be happier than to be involved in the Trans-Miss.”
Kevin Cannon (r) watches as partner Jeff Smith plays to a par three during their final round run to the Trans-Miss Four-ball title.
‘Seasoned’ team just misses tie
Cannon and Smith entered the third round of the FourBall with a three-shot lead after that second-day 66 on the Cochise course. Paired with fellow Scottsdale golfers Josh Johnson and Joe Lloyd, the leaders got off to a perfect start on Geronimo’s opening par 5 when Cannon hit his second shot to 18 feet and rolled in the eagle putt.With Johnson and Lloyd missing birdie putts on the hole, Cannon and Smith suddenly enjoyed a five-shot margin. “I told Jeff I just really liked that (second shot) – a little fade with that hybrid in there,” said Cannon, who plays at various courses in the Phoenix area and at Skagit Golf and Country Club in the state of Washington. “It’s kind of funny when you picture it and it works out the way you want it to. I got a little lucky and made that putt.” But there would be no 63 on Geronimo this day as Cannon and Smith saw their fast start slow down a bit with no birdies and a couple bogeys during an even-par 36 on the course’s front side. Cannon made a “good bogey” from the desert tangle on the par-4 third hole and each player made bogey six at the par-5 ninth. “That bogey felt like a birdie,” Cannon said of his escape on the third hole. Smith agreed. “We both hit bad tee shots, but that was an important hole right there…that Kevin was able to grind out a bogey,” he said. Johnson made a birdie at the ninth after pitching his third shot to about 4 feet and sinking the putt.That got his team back within two at the turn. “For me it was a struggle all day,” Smith said. “I never got comfortable all day long and obviously Kevin played well at times to keep us in it.” He and Cannon parred the first three holes on the back nine before the latter made birdie from about 12 feet at the par-4 13th and from just inside 20 feet on the par16th to give the team a three-shot margin over Johnson/Lloyd with just two holes remaining. “I saw that putt on 16...Jeff gave me the line and he knows how to read these greens so well,” Cannon recalled. “That really helped me, having Jeff confirming it. He told me where it was and I just felt really calm over that putt for some reason. I was aggressive and it went in.That was probably my best putt all week.” Cannon and Smith made par at the 17th and sustained a bogey on the par-3 finishing hole. But their one-under 71 on their second trip around Geronimo was good enough to post 16-under 200 for three spectacular days in Scottsdale and that gave them a one-shot victory. “That’s where I’m happiest – on the golf course,” an elated Cannon said. “And playing in this tournament is a great experience, especially when it’s giving back to the kids who want to get educated and make our golf courses better. Seeing good golf courses and helping kids who want the education…it’s just that much better giving back.”
A pair of final-round, seven-under 65s boosted two teams into second place in the Championship division at the Four-Ball.The entries of Cota de Caza, Calif.’s Richard Yoon and Irvine, Calif.’s Gregory Lopez, and Tulsa, Okla.’s Michael Alsup and Carmel, Ind.’s David Tudor each had the division’s low round of the day to finish at 15-under 201. “We’re a little bitter,” joked Tudor, a 55-year-old who plays out of Crooked Stick, after his team came up just one stroke out of a playoff. “We had a great time.We’re best friends and we had a great week.This is all about (helping the Trans Scholarship program).We’re just happy to be here.We don’t play for a living; our names are not on our bags.” Alsup, a 52-year-old financial advisor playing out of Cedar Ridge in Tulsa, made birdies at Nos. 1, 2 and 4, and an eagle at the par-5 ninth hole in moving the team to 13 under for the Championship and into serious contention. Alsup had four more birdies on Geronimo’s back nine as the team finished its 65 and posted 15-under 201. But three-putt bogeys at the par-4 13th and 16th holes left the seasoned golfers wondering what might have been. “We make two bogeys with three-putts so that’s why we’re a little down,” Alsup lamented. “Because you can’t three-putt in a four-ball.” Alsup and Tudor had a five-under 67 on their first trip around Geronimo in the Championship’s opening round. “This is probably the best two-course place I’ve ever been to with the way everything was set up,” Alsup said. “The way everything was put together is was very, very good.” The team came back with a three-under 69 on Cochise the second day. “We played pretty good the first day,”Tudor said. “Yesterday we were lucky to shoot 69.We scraped it around…pretty scruffy.We were happy to have a shot at it.” Johnson and Lloyd, who made three birdies and one bogey on the final day, settled for a tie for fourth place at 202 after their final-round 70. Also at the figure were Canyon Lake, Calif.’s Robert Funk and David Bartman of Los Angeles after they turned in a final-round, six-under 66 that included nine birdies. Funk, the 2006 Trans Match Play champion at Brook Hollow, won the 2003 Four-Ball title with Dennis Reiland at Pumpkin Ridge. Bartman won the 2005 Match Play at Prairie Dunes.
Texans go low enough for Senior win this time At the 2010 Four-Ball at Pinehurst, Dallas golfers Warren Huddleston and Lee Sandlin fired a 17-under-par 199 to finish second in the Senior division. But that shiny score, which included an eight-under 64 on Pinehurst No. 4, was still a distant seven shots off the winning score posted by John Pigg of Austin,Texas, and Eddie Lyons of Shreveport, La. This time around, Huddleston and Sandlin sandwiched a five-under 67 on the Geronimo course with 64s on each of the layouts.That got the Texans to 21-under 195 for the Championship and they captured a six-stroke Senior division victory.Their eight-under 64 the final day on the Geronimo track, two shots better than any of the other Senior teams that day, allowed Huddleston/Sandlin to break away from Georgetown,Texas’s Jay Pumphrey and Oklahoma City’s Bob Sine, who’d matched the winners with 64/67 the first two days.
Texans Lee Sandlin (l) and Warren Huddleston (r), motivated by their runnerup finish at Pinehurst in 2010 used a brilliant short game to claim by a large margin their first Trans-Miss title.
“We thought we played well last year… This year we felt like if we hit good wedge shots and putted well, we felt like we could make a lot of birdies and we did,” said Huddleston, 57, in real estate and playing out of Bridlewood in Flower Mound,Texas. “Sometimes you hit the ball well, you hit the wedge shots close and you make some putts…it’s wonderful to experience.” Those conditions led to a sack full of birdies for the two players and a Trans championship trophy this time around. “(Winning) is important given the history of the Trans, being more than 100 years old,” Huddleston said. “It’s a special golf organization….the second oldest in the country.We have a high level of respect for the whole organization.” The final day saw Sandlin make birdies on Nos. 12, 13 and 14 – the team’s third, fourth and fifth holes of the day as Senior division contenders went off Geronimo’s 10th tee. Later, Huddleston would chip on No. 6, the team’s 15th hole of the day, and that would ignite the leaders who would go on to birdie the final four holes of the round – including a 2, 3, 4 finish by Sandlin – in posting 21 under par. “What really turned the match, I thought, was I’d hit it up there pretty close at (our 15th hole) and Warren missed the green, he was short,” said Sandlin, 57 and a manufacturer’s rep in the telecom industry who plays his golf at Royal Oaks in Dallas. “He had a little 8-iron; he just
For more action shots of Trans-Miss contestants, see the photo gallery at www.trans-miss.com under the Four-Ball tab. Shown here are (l to r) Josh Johnson, Joe Lloyd, Patrick Malone and Pat Meares.
clipped that thing perfect. It went in for birdie and that got us going. …I hit it on and birdied (No. 7/16th hole of the round), birdied (8/17) with a good wedge shot in there and then on (9/18) I knocked it on in two and twoputted. But really, I think the shot that set us apart was Warren’s chip in...” The Desert Mountain victory was continued Trans success for Sandlin, who led after one round of qualifying with a 69 and was a No. 2 seed at the TMGA Senior Championship this May at Brook Hollow in Dallas. He reached the semifinals of match play before falling to eventual champion Chris Maletis of Portland. “Once we got on the greens on this course we felt like we could birdie every hole,” Sandlin said. “And that just puts faith in every shot, every drive, every iron shot…we felt like we could hit it close. It really resonated. I had a really good three days of hitting greens.” Sine and Pumphrey had three back-side birdies and went on to shoot a two-under 70 the final day at Geronimo. Their 15-under 201 total was good enough for solo second place. Mesa’ Ariz.’s Steve Dallas and Prosper,Texas’s James Hayes placed third at 202.The Senior division champions at Denver’s Cherry Hills Country Club in 2009 had no fewer than 14 birdies during rounds of six-under 66 on each of the courses to begin the 2011 championship. But they managed just three birdies on Geronimo the final day
and settled for a 70 to finish at 14 under par. Two more teams were another shot back at 13-under 203.They included San Diego’s Frank Flanagan/Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.’s Kent Thompson (69-68-66) and Carefree, Ariz.’s Jeff Zieky/Scottsdale’s Dan Fitas (66-69-68).
Eagle on 18 at Cochise jump starts second-round 66 The Championship division opened play on the Geronimo course at the 2011 Four-Ball. But Cannon and Smith’s sizzling nine-under 63 gave the Scottsdale duo just a one-shot lead as several teams turned in low rounds in spectacular, late-summer scoring conditions. The Dallas entry of Leo Corrigan and Patrick Malone made eight birdies in a round of eight-under 64. Another shot back at seven-under 65 were the teams of Johnson/Lloyd, who had a front-side 31, and Eric Joseph of Longview,Texas,/Neal Barfield of Dallas, who managed 32 on the back. Teeing off on No. 10, the leaders found the second round on the Cochise course a little more challenging, at
least to start, as they were just one under through the first seven holes. “Yesterday Jeff was the man…we kind of ham-andegged it,” Cannon said. “The first day was me; the second day was Jeff.” Smith hit his second shot on the par-5 18th hole close and made the eagle putt to ignite his team’s round.The duo added four birdies on the front in a round of sixunder 66. “I had an eagle on 18; I hit 5-wood to about 5 feet and that kind of jump started us,” Smith said. “That got us started in the right direction. I think I made two or three birdies after that and Kevin made a couple.” Cannon and Smith shared low round of the day with Funk and Bartman.The Californians found the Cochise layout to their liking with four birdies on the front nine and two more on the back in a bogey-free 66. Johnson and Lloyd had six birdies and one bogey in their second-round 67 on Cochise. Also at the number were the teams of Incline Village, Nev.’s Ryan Mitchell/Joe Sanders, Justin Walker of Broken Arrow, Okla./Jason Wright of Tulsa, Okla., and Oklahoma City, Okla.’s J Kelly Hudelson/Cooper Johnson.
Half dozen courses on Trans scholar’s plate Six Nicklaus designs keep Desert Mountain staff busy Everyone in the golf world knows when you come to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area the golfing opportunities are plentiful.The Valley of the Sun has become one of the most highly regarded golfing destinations in the United States. Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain Golf Club and two of its six challenging layouts were the latest stop for the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association as its 31st Four-Ball Championship was contested in mid September. It’s always nice when the Trans comes to a facility where a former scholarship winner plies his trade and that’s definitely the case for the private golfing community that is Desert Mountain. Director of Agronomy Shawn Emerson, who manages a staff of more than 150 on the half dozen courses, is a former Trans scholar and his staff includes two others who received academic aide from the organization that annually supports aspiring turf students through its scholarship program. “I think it was back in 1986 and ’87…,” recalls Emerson, now 48 and having graduated from the University of Arizona. “We have three Trans scholars on our staff.The Trans has been around so long and it has great history to it. It’s been at Phoenix Country Club and other places around so we were excited… “They’ve been such a great supporter of golf, not just playing the game but growing the game and making sure (students) are current with the research and use technologies to work along with the environment.”
Storming back And that Sonoran Desert environment almost derailed the 2011 version of the Four-Ball when one of the area’s “monsoon” storms dumped more than an inch of rain in less that 20 minutes on the Cochise and Geronimo courses on Saturday night.The resulting wash damage left the championship’s future in jeopardy, but Emerson and his staff focused their efforts on getting the two layouts back in shape. Monday’s practice rounds were delayed a bit, but the tournament teed off on time on Tuesday morning and competitors enjoyed three rounds on the finely manicured layouts as if nothing had ever happened. “It’s an orchestra of events and you witnessed it here this week with the storm,” says Emerson, who’s spent the last 16 years at Desert Mountain, after stints at Coronado in El Paso and PGA West in Palm Springs. “We probably had four or five (golf course’s staffs) working on these two courses the last day and half getting them ready.” To say Desert Mountain is a huge facility is no overstatement. From stunning vistas on either of the Cochise and Geronimo courses,Trans Four-Ball competitors could take in some of the more than 8,000 acres that encompass the property’s six golf courses. According to Emerson, each of the Nicklaus-designed layouts is built in a 200-acre envelope and has about 85 to 90 acres of managed turf. “Each is a little bit different. People always ask us why we have six Nicklaus courses and we say ‘He knew what
he did so he could change each course accordingly,’” Emerson says. “There are somewhere around 2,000-2,100 home sites on the property.There’s about 1,000 feet of elevation change on the property from the low end to the high end and it’s really a golf property that wants to live with the Sonoran Desert and the community. Nothing’s trying to be intrusive to it, and let golf be natural out here.”
Airflow and lots of sunshine Emerson says each course has its own superintendent, two assistants and a staff of approximately 25 employees to maintain the desert courses.The courses include 419 bermuda grass tees, fairways and roughs (320 bermuda at Chiricahua). Greens, which range in size from the approximately 4,000 square foot putting surfaces of Geronimo to the massive 16,000-foot double greens of Renegade, are mostly dominant bentgrass, Emerson says.The Desert Mountain staff has developed a program the last two years where four courses are over seeded each fall and two are left dormant. “The good thing is there is plenty of airflow through the property and Scottsdale, Ariz. has plenty of sunshine,” Emerson says. “It’s 340 or 350 days a year of good golf weather.The negatives…we use effluent water, about 850 million gallons of water a year, but it is reclaimed.The problem with it for us is it carries a lot of salts with it. So we have to do a lot of flushing and agronomic practices to get rid of the salts.” For the Trans, Emerson says the staff increased mowing frequency as it does for most big tournaments. “…for example, we typically cut the greens 10 times a week, but for the Trans or any major event we may cut them 13 or 14 times week…we may cut them twice a day,” he says. “We really focus on increasing the number of (maintenance practices), not changing the greens.”
Winter 2011 issue