Planet Golf — 11 February 2022 by Candace Oehler
Good Times at WM Phoenix Open

Scottsdale, AZ – Feb. 9, 2022

It’s all fun and games at the WM Phoenix Open, until somebody misses the cut and goes home early.

Fortunately, there was no cut at the Greenest Show on Grass Tuesday. Instead, kids were treated to games, demos and inspirational presentations at the R.S. Hoyt Jr. Family Foundation Dream Day benefiting The First Tee of Phoenix.  More than 600 kids were enthralled by jet-lagged Bubba Watson, who hours earlier had arrived from his previous event in Saudi Arabia, where he finished second.  They got to call his shots – high/low fades and draws – and cheered wildly, while at the same time yelling, “Where did it go???!”

He was joined on the range by Arizona Cardinals fan favorites Larry Fitzgerald and wide receiver Christian Kirk, who learned to play golf through the First Tee.  Even world-class trick-shot artist Tania Tare was there to wow the crowd with her mind-boggling shots, using not just one, but two clubs at a time.  She is easily recognizable from her Second Swing television commercial, in which she bounces golf balls off clubs while “shopping” through the store.

Her signature move, bouncing a golf ball in the air, then giving it a mighty baseball swing whack with a driver, is truly impressive.  Asked how far she “drives” the ball, the New Zealand native responded, “I think probably about 300 meters.”  Any baseball teams out there looking for a power hitter?

Later that day, more celebrities joined the fun for the San Tan Ford Special Olympics Putting Challenge. Participants included Scottsdale resident and 23-time gold medalist Michael Phelps, former Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb, and current LA Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler. Each celebrity was paired with a Special Olympian to navigate a nine-hole putting challenge.

The adults took over on Wednesday at the Annexus Pro-Am, a second consecutive free day sponsored by San Tan Ford. Obviously, there was no cut line, but perhaps there should have been… Among the A-list celebrities were “inoculated” NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff, Reggie Bush, actor Josh Duhamel, retired Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, comedian Rob Riggle, Vikings receiver Adam Thielan and cornerback Patrick Peterson, retired running back (and Dancing with the Stars champion) Emmit Smith,  and the celebs from Tuesday.

Twenty-seven teams were paired with two pros, one for the first nine and one for the final nine. The winning score of -17 was posted by Patrick Peterson’s team, led by KH Lee and Keith Mitchell.  Teams led by Daniel Berger/Carlos Ortiz and Si Woo Kim/Seamus Power earned the dubious distinction of tying for last, at -7.

One of the real pleasures of the day was the opportunity to catch up with all-around nice guy CC Sabathia (@CC_Sabathia).  He’s still a mountain of a man, but the lefty has dropped probably 60 pounds since retiring following the 2019 season, looks in tremendous shape, and has taken up golf, even hosting a tournament to benefit his foundation.  We spoke briefly, but touched on a number of subjects – golf, Hall of Fame, baseball lockout, and the passing of Gerald Williams.

Listen to the 3-part interview here:

That’s it for all the fun happenings – check back for actual tournament news and interviews.

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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; 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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