2011 Arizona Amateur preview

By Bill Huffman

For 86 years the Arizona Amateur Championship has been contested at the state’s finest golf venues. That illustrious list includes old school layouts like Arizona, Paradise Valley, Phoenix, Pinnacle and Tucson country clubs, as well as dynamic desert tracts like Desert Forest, Desert Mountain, Stone Canyon, The Gallery and Troon, to name a few.

Add yet another name to that honor roll when the Country Club at DC Ranch plays host to the Arizona Amateur on Aug. 1-6. What’s unique about DC Ranch, according to Bo Ream, the director of rules and competitions for the sponsoring Arizona Golf Association, is that it blends the past with the present.

“It’s a different kind of golf course than we usually play for the Amateur," said Ream, who along with DC Ranch’s director of golf, Dick Hyland, will set the pins, speed of the greens and determine yardages for the state’s ultimate championship.

“In the past, it seems, we either have played a tight desert tract like a Troon Country Club or The Gallery, or a more open, parkland course like Pinnacle Peak or Tucson Country Club. This course combines a little bit of both of those styles."

Ream said DC Ranch is demanding off the tee in some places and wide-open in others.

“But if you get off the course it will be very penal," Ream noted. “At the same time, there are such a great variety of holes with a nice mix of big greens and small greens, so lots of chances for risk and reward."

According to Ream, the reason the Arizona Amateur ended up at DC Ranch was twofold.

“We’ve never been there before and it’s such a great course, so this will be a nice treat for our players," Ream explained. “Plus, the Arizona Golf Association has such a great relationship with Dick Hyland and (head pro) Drew Darrow."

Hyland, who is in his first year running the private club in Scottsdale, but who is no stranger to the elite neighborhood having worked at Desert Mountain and for Lyle Anderson Golf, said one of his first goals when he came to DC Ranch was to host a major tournament to its membership.

“(AGA executive director) Ed Gowan and I toured the course not long ago, and Ed expressed to me that he’d like to bring one of his organization’s bigger events to DC Ranch," Hyland recalled.

“Knowing that we’d never done that before – hosted a major tournament of any magnitude – I was very interested in getting that accomplished, and none are bigger than the Amateur."

As Hyland noted, DC Ranch is a redesign by Tom Lehman and Jon Fought, who basically took Scott Miller’s original design completed in 1997 and enhanced the green complexes. With five par 3s and a great stretch of golf called “the mountain holes" – Nos. 12-14 – the par-71, 7,000-yard layout “will be the perfect test for match play."

“For us to host the Arizona Amateur is a real honor," Hyland said. “I think what the players will discover about DC Ranch is that it’s a bit of a sleeper in that they’ll be surprised at the quality of the golf course and the variety of holes."

Hyland said there is a good reason why DC Ranch has defied the economy by adding 60 new members in the last year.

“Arguably, it’s the premiere family club in the Northeast Valley," said Hyland of the club that boasts 400 golf members, including Lehman, who lives just off the 10th hole.

There’s even a chance several of the members will contend for the Amateur title, Hyland added.

“I think that list includes the defending champ, Nicholas Losole III," he said. “I haven’t seen him playing or practicing here lately, but I guess that’s because he’s been at Northwestern, where he goes to college."

As always, Hyland is right down the middle with that assessment. Losole, whose family belongs to DC Ranch, recently competed in the NCAA tournament for the Wildcats. He certainly will be among the favorites for the Amateur along with Arizona State’s Philip Francis, who also competed in the NCAA tournament, where he was the “low Sun Devil" (T32).

One thing is for certain: College-aged kids have dominated this tournament for the past seven years, or ever since Ken Kellaney won the last of his five Arizona Amateur titles in 2003. Whether that trend continues at DC Ranch during the 87th edition remains to be seen.