Planet Golf — 29 January 2015 by Candace Oehler
Annexus Pro-Am at Waste Management

 

SCOTTSDALE, Az. –The weather on Wednesday may be remembered as the best day of the week.  Jackets in the morning, sleeveless by noon.  Heavy storms expected Friday and Saturday.

Tiger ‘Woods got the day going with the first tee time at 8:30 off #1.  The atmosphere was absolutely electric when he walked out and some in the crowd were even asking “Is it really him?” It’s a slimmer, healthy-looking Tiger these days, and he appeared to be genuinely enjoying himself, especially with his buddy Marcus Allen.

Look closely that's Tiger swinging.

Look closely, that’s Tiger swinging.

NFL Hall of Famer Marcus Allen

NFL Hall of Famer Marcus Allen

Randy Johnson getting ready

Randy Johnson getting ready

Randy's first drive

Randy Johnson off the 10th tee

 

What a splendid day!

What a splendid day!

 

The cheers for Bubba’s group, that immediately followed Tiger’s, were equally enthusiastic when Arizona Cardinals head football coach Bruce Arians was introduced.  Bubba took over the mic to give Arians a hard time on the tee – “Are you nervous out there, Coach?”

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians

Future Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey, Jr., was as entertaining as always.  He insisted that he rarely plays golf these days, instead devoting his time to son Tevin and the teen’s multiple activities that range from football, Tai Kwon Do, to music.  It’s likely that Tevin is actually the best athlete in the family, better even than his older siblings Trey and Taryn, who play Division I football and basketball, respectively, at University of Arizona. Trey, in fact, was picking dad up after the round and the two were going to enjoy dinner at Pappadeaux, Phoenix’s top seafood spot.

But, for someone who says he rarely plays, Junior still has a sweet and powerful golf swing that’s like butter and so reminiscent of that fluid home run stroke we all remember.  He outdrove his playing partners (including Jim McMahon and pro Hideki Matsuyama) on the first hole, but ended up off the fairway with a sidehill lie and the ball below his feet.  No problem. He wedged a perfect shot that landed just off the green, but pin high.  The rustiness only showed up in his short game, when he left his chip way short.

And why, exactly was he paired with Matsuyama?  Well, if you believe Junior, it was all Ichiro’s doing.   The Matsuyama group finished T24 (out of 26).

 

Still a sweet swing.

Still a sweet swing.

 

Junior please with his practice

Junior pleased with his practice

Downhill lie, no problem for Junior.

Downhill lie, no problem for Junior.

 

The Tiger | Griffey connection:

Tiger and Griffey were introduced on the field of the Kingdome in 1992, during Mariners batting practice.   Tiger was just 15 and in Seattle with his dad to host a golf tournament benefitting inner city junior golf.  Earl Woods had played some semi-pro baseball and was eager to attend a couple Mariners games.  Tiger threw out the first pitch and later had sore back worked on by Mariners trainer Rick Griffen.

Years later, Tiger and Griffey became neighbors in Isleworth, the exclusive Florida enclave of the wealthy, famous and athletic.  Griffey even played several Pro-Ams with Tiger,  but their friendship eventually cooled as their lives took different paths.

Venezuelans representing – It was fun to catch up with the Cub’s catcher Miguel Montero, who was traded by the Diamondbacks in the middle of last season.  He and good friend Jhonattan Vegas, along with a lively contingent of fellow Venezuelans, held court outside the players’ clubhouse.  Montero was a fan favorite in Phoenix, and his exuberant personality is sorely missed in the D’backs clubhouse. Montero was the one who kept everyone loose.

Venezuelans hanging together.

Venezuelans hanging together.

Side note:  Winning Pro-Am team was led by pro Bill Haas, my winning pick at last week’s Humana Challenge.

 

 

 

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About Author

Candace Oehler’s deep dive into sports media began several decades ago when she won a trip from Seattle to Mariners spring training in Arizona. Noting that non-English-speaking Latino ball players received little, if any, media coverage, she fluently/en español became a pioneer in Spanish sports media, and eventually became known affectionately throughout the Latino MLB community as “La Veterana.” Candace has written for team publications and MLB.com; hosted her own radio show on several Spanish-language stations; served as producer/reporter/engineer for the Mariners’ inaugural season of Spanish radio broadcasts; and has been a reporter for MLB Network Radio the past 10 years. She was invited to Venezuela by future Hall-of-Fame shortstop Omar Vizquel to cover rebuilding efforts and accomplishments of his charitable foundation following the devastating 1999 mudslides; worked in Puerto Rico for former Major Leaguers Joey Cora and Carlos Baerga managing fundraising events; and was the only female in the raucous locker room when the hometown favorite Licey Tigers won the 2004 Caribbean World Series in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Candace was introduced to the game of golf in 1992 by members of Seattle’s historic Fir State Golf Club, who had approached her to manage their (then) little fundraising tournament hosted by a shy, gangly 15-year old Tiger Woods. Candace co-managed the annual event for nearly 20 years, working with hosts that included Ken Griffey, Sr., Birdie Griffey, Mike Cameron, Nate McMillan, Warren Moon, and Dale Ellis. She became secretary of the club and the Fir State Junior Golf Foundation, and got totally, completely hooked on golf, learning to play on a set of Redbirds given to her by the club (apparently they considered her mother’s Patty Bergs a bit antiquated). She has since traded up to another set of Redbirds and a much more user-friendly golf environment in Arizona. And, once a prolonged stint on the DL is over, she can’t wait to get back on the course and continue lowering her current 21-handicap to ….?

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