Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Match Play squeezed out?

May 11, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Greg Hansen offers his take on sports news of the past week.

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  • Each of the eight 2015 PGA Tour events on the West Coast swing are booked. In effect, the WGC-Match Play Championship has been squeezed off the schedule.

    Yet at the ongoing Players Championship, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said, “Where we’re going is an open question; certainly, Tucson is a possibility.”

    But is it really?

    After the final 2015 West Coast stop, the Feb. 18-22 Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, the tour begins its Florida swing Feb. 25-March 1 at the Honda Classic.

    What’s more, Gerald Goodman, for three years executive director of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, has been hired by the PGA Tour to operate the Champions Tour’s Legends of Golf event June 4-8 and relocate to Branson, Missouri.

    The only potential opening on the 2015 PGA Tour calendar is May 14-17, following the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

    That would not likely work in Tucson because the average high temperature on May 14 is 92, and it often can be over 100 here by that time.

    Unable to find a sponsor willing to pay as much as $12 million a year to be an umbrella sponsor for a WGC event, the PGA Tour will probably not stage a Match Play event in 2015.

    The Tucson Conquistadores have been assured they will play host to a pro golf event in ’15, and have the ability to select a March stop on the Champions Tour, possibly at Omni Tucson National.

    The upside to a Champions Tour event is a two-day Pro Am, which can generate tens of thousands of dollars for charities. It would also appeal to the Southern Arizona demographic of over-50 golf fans.

    For now, Finchem’s options are limited.

    If he signs a sponsor, one of the possibilities is to encumber the weakest of the West Coast events, the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California, on Jan. 22-25, by scheduling the Match Play simultaneously in Tucson, or elsewhere.

    More likely, by 2016, he will build an entirely new Match Play event, with a format that does not include first-day eliminations.

    After eight years, Dove Mountain should get the first crack at a chance to play host to a new-and-improved Match Play format, but that’s not often the way it works in pro sports.

    Once the PGA Tour finds a replacement for Accenture, money — not sentimentality — will talk.

  • In its first three Pac-12 homestands this season, the Arizona Wildcats softball team went 9-0 and became feared as the NCAA’s most prolific offensive team.

    The Wildcats hit .441 in those games, with 31 home runs.

    But reality struck when bottom-dwellers Stanford, Oregon State and Utah left Hillenbrand Stadium. Incredibly, Mike Candrea’s team hit just .243 (going 4-8) on the road before this weekend’s home series with No. 1 Oregon.

    That’s another way of saying it’s all about pitching in college softball.

    The Ducks did not buy their way to softball prominence on Nike money; coach Mike White was hired for a below market rate of $84,500 five years ago. Since then, he has proven to be the most dynamic coach to enter Pac-12 softball since Candrea in 1986.

    White is a superb pitching coach, and it’s no surprise: He is one of the greatest pitchers in the history of international softball. His sophomore phenom, Cheridan Hawkins, is White’s equivalent of Candrea’s Jennie Finch and Susie Parra.

    White briefly considered pursuing the UA’s pitching coach opening in 2009, which went to Teresa Wilson. He also resisted a chance to apply for the head coaching opening at Washington.

    The Ducks figure to be a strong national title contender through 2016, minimum.

    When Hawkins left small-school Anderson (Calif.) High School two years ago, her scholarship offers were from Mississippi State, San Diego State and Boise State.

    White, who knows a good pitcher when he sees one, landed a franchise recruit when the rest of the league looked elsewhere.

  • Palo Verde High School grad Bryce Cotton was flown to Salt Lake City by the Utah Jazz, and to Sacramento by the NBA’s Kings for private workouts last week. The All-Big East Conference guard is not listed on any mock draft I’ve seen; ESPN ranks him as the 62nd best player on the board. Cotton told reporters in Salt Lake City he sees himself as a pure point guard, not a shooting guard, at which he often played for the Providence Friars. 

  • Canyon del Oro grad Blake Martinez completed spring football at Stanford as the likely replacement for star linebacker Shayne Skov, who went undrafted. Martinez made two tackles in Stanford’s spring game and will enter fall training camp no less than 1A on the depth chart. 

  • Mark Mariani was one of the top Tucson receivers of the 1980s, a star wideout for Howard Breinig’s powerhouse teams at Sahuaro High School. Mariani played at UTEP following his Cougars career. Last week, his daughter, Maddie Mariani won the Level 9 All-Around West Regional gymnastics championship in Boise, Idaho, for Arizona Dynamics’ Tucson gym. Maddie, 14, is an eighth-grader at Emily Gray Junior High School. 

  • Coach Yoichi Tomita took a career-high six Tucson boys gymnasts from his Gymnastics World stable to the Junior Olympics National championships this weekend in Long Beach, California. Among them, Nathan Goff has been accepted to be part of the Army gymnastics team at West Point next year, and Josh Everitt has accepted a scholarship to Nebraska. 

  • The Arizona Interscholastic Association is charging $8 for adult admission into the ongoing state baseball playoffs, $10 for neutral sites and $6 for students . That’s absurdly high. A family of five — mom, dad, siblings, a grandparent — must pay at least $40 to watch their son play a high school baseball game. Year after year, the AIA just doesn’t get it. How about $3 per person?

  • Sean Miller’s roster management is as impressive as that of Lute Olson in the ’90s when Olson regularly added transfers such as Chris MillsBen Davis and Brian Williams (later Bison Dele) to a Top 25 roster. Arizona’s addition of 6-foot-9-inch Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson last week is a coup. In his last game at BC this season, Anderson scored 15 points and had 12 rebounds against Georgia Tech. Against national champion UConn this season, Anderson had 22 points, including 11-for-11 from the foul line. Anderson played at Long Beach Poly in the Class of 2011, choosing BC over offers from San Diego State, Colorado and Washington State. He had 14 rebounds this year when BC stunned No. 1 Syracuse. Miller’s transfer additions — Mark LyonsT. J. McConnell and now Anderson — separate the Cats from the pack. 

  • If Oregon State athletic director Bob De Carolis hires ex-UCLA coach Ben Howland over Arizona assistant coach Damon Stoudamire this week, it will be greeted with yawns in Corvallis, Ore. Stoudamire has a wow factor. Howland’s slowdown, hands-on-the-reins style won’t play at OSU, or anywhere any more. 

  • Tucsonan Austin Moore had a career-high 14 strikeouts Thursday as Lamar (Colorado) Community College beat Otero Junior College. Moore, a sophomore right-hander from Mountain View High School, is 9-1 with 104 strikeouts in 80 innings He has signed to play next season at Houston. 

  • Three years ago at this time, Palo Verde High grad Adam Hall would’ve been part of virtually all 2014 NFL mock drafts. He was a safety with size, speed, athleticism. Instead, he twice wrecked his knee, did not mesh with Rich Rodriguez and the UA’s new coaching regime, and is out of football entirely. Hall turns 25 in September. The 2009 Parade All-American was, at one time, as good a prospect, with more position versatility, than Ka’Deem Carey. At the time, Hall was possibly the top prospect on campus, with softball pitcher Kenzie Fowler, whose career also was betrayed by a series of injuries. Never say never in college sports. 

  • Keep your eye on UA senior left tackle Mickey Baucus in the 2015 NFL draft. He was selected first-team All-Pac-12 by Athlon magazine this month.

  • The showdown of the year at the Pac-12 track and field championships next weekend in Pullman, Washington, will be Arizona Wildcats senior distance runner Lawi Lalang against Oregon freshman Edward Cheserek, who stunned Lalang in the NCAA indoor 5,000 final three months ago. The UA thought Cheserek would be a Wildcat, joining Lalang as the top one-two punch in college distance running. “On his recruiting visit to Tucson, Edward said, ‘I’m going to be a Wildcat,’ ” said UA coach Fred Harvey. “The next thing you know, he’s an Oregon Duck.” Arizona boldly attempted to run Lalang in three distance events at the NCAA indoor finals; it was too much. Cheserek took advantage of the tired seven-time NCAA champion to win the 5,000. The races in Pullman next weekend should be a more accurate preview of the NCAA outdoor finals a few weeks later in Eugene, Oregon. 

  • Some mock drafts for baseball’s June draft have Sahuaro High School lefty pitcher/outfielder Alex Verdugo in the first round. That might be a little ambitious. Verdugo has struggled with his control all season; he threw 111 pitches in 5 2/3 innings in Tuesday’s state tournament victory over Scottsdale Saguaro. Scouts are aware that Verdugo’s inner circle has attempted to control his use by Sahuaro coach Mark Chandler, which led to an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous on-field confrontation during April’s Sahuaro-Salpointe Catholic game. At the Sahuaro-Saguaro game last week, seven MLB scouts with radar guns stood behind home plate; one scout told me that Verdugo’s fastball was steady at 87 to 89 mph, but not the low ’90s that would likely get him drafted in the first round. ESPN’s latest mock draft has Verdugo going No. 69 overall. 

  • Arizona junior Alex McMahon, an Ironwood Ridge grad, was the co-medalist Monday at the U.S. Open local qualifier at Sewailo Golf Club. McMahon shot 4-under 68 in windy conditions. After finishing ninth at the Pac-12 championships, McMahon has emerged as a potential star-level player for 2014-15.

  • Tucson firefighter Grant Cesarek, a Sabino High grad, won the Tucson City Amateur last week, shooting a cumulative 3-under par over four rounds at Randolph, Dell Urich, El Rio and Silverbell golf courses. He also won in 2013. Cesarek thus becomes the sixth Tucsonan to win back-to-back City Am titles in history, joining Jeff KernLarry PagelArmen DirtadianWillie Kane and David McDaniel. Well done.

  • Four years ago, Carson Woodbury was the captain of Catalina Foothills state championship cross country team.

    He accepted a scholarship to Penn, spent a year on the crew team and then concentrated on academics. His younger brother, Rex Woodbury, who was the nation’s 2010 equivalent of the high school Heisman Award winner for prep cross country runners, received much more attention in athletics. He is now on the track team at Dartmouth.

    Carson Woodbury will graduate from Penn next week, Phi Beta Kappa. He will spend the 2014-15 school year studying molecular genetics at Cambridge University in England, and then return to the United States to study medicine at Johns Hopkins University.

    That’s a Heisman in itself, isn’t it?

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