Back in March, when the U.S. began to shut down, Superstition Mountain Director of Golf Matt Brooks and his team knew that they still wanted to have the honor of hosting the 77th Arizona Open Championship in August. However, the safety of their staff and players were going to be a priority if the event was still going to happen.
“This will be the fifth time we’ve hosted since 2011 and it’s a feather in our cap and a prestigious event,” Brooks said. “It’s something that we feel is very important to do even if we have the chance to do it because of our relationship with the Southwest Section PGA. Once we were comfortable with our processes and procedures in making sure our staff, members and competitors were going to be safe, we all came to the conclusion that this is something we can still do.”
Fast forward to early August. Superstition Mountain has taken extensive measures to keep all those involved safe for the upcoming Arizona Open Aug. 3-5.
Along with a strict mask mandate inside the golf shop and clubhouse, the course is making sure there is little physical contact on the course as well. Golf carts are limited to single riders, golf cup clipper adapters will be used so golfers don’t need to touch the flag sticks, and rakes will be assigned to individual carts instead of being left in various bunkers.
“We were really fortunate in that we got out in front of this as quickly as we could,” Brooks said. “Back in March, our leadership team came up with a plan to make sure members and staff were being as safe as possible. The processes we had in place to keep people safe were used at other clubs around the state and country. We’ve been able to carry what we’ve been doing from the beginning all the way to this point.”
The tournament will bring in over 150 golfers to the course and facilities, but Brooks said he is not too concerned about social distancing on the course. Along with stipulations for the tournament, the course has installed sanitizing stations at water coolers and made sure the driving range stalls are six feet apart.
“Golfers in general are people who get and understand the value to be able to be outside and play a game that’s in a solitary portion or with a group of people,” Brooks said. “There’s an inherent sort of respect that comes with being a golfer relative to your other players and competitors. Everyone at the club has done a great job of social distancing and not impede the safety and discomfort of the people that they are playing with.”
As for the competition, the Arizona Open will be welcoming back some familiar faces. PGA Tour pro Charlie Beljan of Mesa, who won the event in 2019, will be teeing off at 7:50 a.m. on Monday against 2013 open champion Craig Hocknull and amateur Leon D’Souza.
Alongside PGA Tour golfers, Brooks said they are expecting a handful of talented amateurs includng a pair of Grand Canyon Univiersity grads in Jake Chanen, who qualified for the NCAA Regionals in 2019; and Trevor Lampson, who was sixth last season at the WAC Championships. Brooks said he believes as many as 70 different players in the field could win.
The level of competition is linked to the volume of players who competed to qualify for the open this year, which was high than usual, according to Brooks.
“I think with people having time on their hands and golf being an outlet during the pandemic, I think you saw that uptick in people trying to qualify,” he said. “The silver lining to this thing is were starting to see how golf can be an outlet for people, whether or not a pandemic is going on.”
“Hopefully the golf stands for itself and we get a really good champion with really good scoring, but I think everyone is going to remember what’s going on this summer with competitive golf,” Brooks said. “This is so different than what we’re used to. I think everywhere I’ve been so far this summer has done a great job of keeping everyone safe.”