Beyond Golf — 03 February 2014 by Jim Street
Fans’ focus now turns to baseball, golf

It’s good-bye football and hello baseball.

Now that the Super Bowl is behind us, and the Vince Lombardi Trophy has returned to a city in the Pacific Time Zone for the first time since 1995, the sports-minded public turns its collective attention to Spring Training and all the trimmings – including some terrific golf courses.

In less than a week, pitchers and catchers will start reporting to training camps in Arizona to begin preparations for the 2014 season. The 15-team Cactus League features a new multi-million dollar home for the Cubs, a totally refurbished clubhouse-office facility for the Mariners — the new spring home of star second baseman Robinson Cano —  and high hopes for better success among the 10 teams that play in West Divisions.

Only two of those teams – the Dodgers and Athletics – reached the playoffs in ’13 and neither advanced beyond the Division Series.

With the Seahawks becoming the first West Coast team to win a Super Bowl since the 49ers in 1995, perhaps it is a sign that the West will have a banner year and the next World Series champion also will come from the so-called Left Coast. What do you think of that you frost-bitten Easterners?

Since the back-to-back titles by the Diamondbacks and Angels in 2001 and ’02, the Giants (2010-’12) are the only MLB team from west of the Mississippi to capture the World Series title in the 21st Century.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks get started early because of their season-opening series in Australia — March 22-23. The D-Backs have their first workout on Feb. 7 in Scottsdale, two days before the Dodgers convene at their camp facility in Glendale. Everyone else is scheduled to begin workouts a week later, and Cactus League games begin the week of Feb. 26.

Here is the reporting-date schedule:

Baseball and golf go hand-in-hand during Spring Training and many fans take their clubs.
There is a plethora of fine courses to play in the desert, regardless of where you stay. The TPC Course in Scottsdale, which just hosted the Waste Management Phoenix Open, is a must-play – though a bit pricey.

The Wigwam Resort, located in Goodyear, is one of the favorites among MLB players. It’s a three-course layout that, unlike many desert courses, has more grass than sand landing areas. Golferswest.com colleague Kirby Arnold is a course marshal at the Wigwam and will entertain you with golf/baseball stories on the first tee.

Whereas many golfers put together their own game plan, others need help.

These guys can set you up.

Among my favorites on the west side of the valley are Estrella Mountain, the Raven Golf Club at Verrado and Palm Valley.

But that’s just a small sampling of golf in The Valley of the Sun.

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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