Greg Hansen: Spirit of fun despite the chill in Tucson

Here at The Fridge, most seem to take Arctic scene in stride
2013-02-21T00:00:00Z 2013-02-21T00:00:07Z Greg Hansen: Spirit of fun despite the chill in TucsonGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Through 66 years on the PGA Tour, Tucson forever fumbled to come up with an identity. No Blue Monster. No Amen Corner. No Road Hole.

Finally, at 11:07 a.m., Wednesday, we broke through. Welcome to The Fridge.

It was a day that a golfer could have fun with a snowman for the first time. It was a day that the PGA Tour forgot its three raging controversies - the long putter, slow play and deer antler spray - and staged an impromptu snowball fight in the parking lot of the Ritz-Carlton hotel.

I hope none of the Cadillacs were damaged.

What would Mick Jagger sing at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships? Paint it white.

As the snow began to fall, Sergio Garcia was one hole, one stroke perhaps, from closing out Thong-chai Jaidee at the 15th hole. The warmth of the Tour's evacuation vehicle was so inviting, mere moments away, that when Garcia's drive careened left, he grimaced and rapped his club against the tee marker. It broke in two pieces.

Lots of things break when Arizona gets in touch with its inner Alaska, but one thing that didn't seem to break Wednesday was the spirit of fun.

Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson triggered snowball fights. Golf Channel analyst Sir Nick Faldo built a mini-snowman. Luke Donald tweeted that "even the cacti are cold" and included an image he labeled "Winter Wonderland."

The freestyle moguls competition was optional.

Life on the PGA Tour is so relatively tranquil, a place where square grooves and belly putters qualify as fightin' words, that a rare snow day seems to put the seriousness of an $8.7 million golf tournament in perspective. That's why someone constructed a life-size snowman next to the pro shop and put a Conquistadores helmet on its frosty head.

"We have people that want their money back, and we have people that think it's great," said Judy McDer-mott, executive director of the Tucson Conquistadores. "I try to remind people that this is an event for charity."

If there were any losers Wednesday, they weren't golfers. Those men had to be delighted they didn't have to remain outside. The PGA Tour is paying for their lodging at the Ritz-Carlton, as well as guaranteeing every man $46,000, minimum. U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson hit his drive at No. 1 and then heard the horn blow, stopping play.

His fingers didn't have time to get cold.

Retired Raytheon executive Walter Rice, a Catalina High School and ASU grad, drove from his Vail-area home to Dove Mountain while it was still dark Wednesday morning.

He was on the first hole when Garcia and Jaidee, the day's first group, launched the day's play. At 15, he was in the warmth of the Canyon Club when Garcia and Jaidee reached the tee.

"I didn't see a lot of golf, but I stuck around almost until 1 o'clock," said Rice. "When I got home, my shoes were caked with mud and my socks were still wet. But I had fun. Everybody seemed upbeat. I'm disappointed for Tucson, though, because I'm afraid the media will show that, oh my gosh, we made a mess of Match Play."

No chance of that. Match Play on the PGA Tour was as lifeless as Jimmy Hoffa when Tucson volunteered to be its host seven years ago. Somehow, on one of the coldest days of any winter in Tucson, buses from the Dove Mountain Boulevard parking lots were running, sometimes full, as early as 7:30 a.m.

We've seen worse.

Snow at the nearby Gallery Golf Club, North Course, wiped out the second round of the 2001 Touchstone Energy Tucson Open, an event so subdued that it was broadcast on CNBC and won by Garrett Willis, a rookie who didn't even have a sponsor's name on his golf bag.

That was a dark day in the 66 years of Tucson pro golf, but we recovered and became stronger.

Here's some context: Those who paid $55 for Wednesday's ticket, those who took the day off and hoped to get some sun, aren't nearly as unfortunate as the proprietors of nearby golf courses. At Crooked Tree Golf Course, for example, a day's worth of high season tee times, worth about $12,000, were wiped out. A few miles east, about 500 golfers were unable to complete, or start, their rounds at Omni Tucson National.

That's about $50,000 in unrealized revenue. The Match Play and TV people lose a lot more than that if Tiger Woods doesn't advance to the weekend.

On the PGA Tour, it has snowed in the most unusual places. It snowed at the 2005 BellSouth Classic in Atlanta, in April, wiping out two days of play. And it snowed at the 1962 Bing Crosby National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach.

It was so unexpected that Hall of Famer Jimmy Demaret said, "Geez, I know I was drinking last night, but how did I get to Squaw Valley?"

The road to Dove Mountain remains open. Chains are optional.

Contact reporter Greg Hansen at ghansen@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @GHansen711.

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