With a year's experience, club's staff more comfortable this time
Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, Chris East with Salem Sports secures a Walter Hagen Club sign above the entryway. The Walter Hagen Club is considered the sports bar of the Match Play tournament.

A year ago, the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain had been open five weeks before the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship came to its sparkling green fairways amid saguaro-lined Tortolita foothills.

"We had brand new grass, almost too healthy," recalls Jeff McCormick, director of golf operations.

The course has had a year to mature. Adjustments have been made, in particular on the greens. And the staff has a year of experience under its collective belt.

"I have a much greater comfort level coming into this year," McCormick said last week. There is "some pressure," but "we've done it for a year. The anxiety, certainly, is not as much as last year."

McCormick is in charge of the clubhouse, the locker room, the practice facilities, golf bag storage and security, golf carts and details for all the volunteers, among other duties. For 51 weeks, McCormick and his staff take care of members, hotel guests and the general public. When Match Play comes to town, "our clientele changes that week," he said. Between the PGA Tour and Accenture, "we have two new user groups that have totally different needs," McCormick said.

"My job is to direct the team, to make sure everyone's got the same goals in mind, and to take the best care of our guests as we possibly can."

McCormick enjoys his working relationships with Match Play executive director Wade Dunagan, his staff and the PGA Tour. They are "just phenomenal partners," McCormick said. "You couldn't ask for a better colleague than Wade Dunagan."

Jay Ervine is the head superintendent at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain.

"The course is in spectacular shape, thanks to Jay and his team," McCormick said. "They have done a phenomenal job." Winter rain "has helped. They made some applications prior to the rain that's really helped green the course up."

McCormick breaks his favorite Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain holes into the three par groups. He likes the 16th among the par 3s. "It's far and away my favorite greens complex," said McCormick. "That green is just fantastic."

Among the par 4s, #10 is "no gimmicks, no tricks, it's right there in front of you." Often, it plays into the wind, and at 493 yards it's a challenge. Paul Casey holed out from the 10th fairway in his championship match with Geoff Ogilvy a year ago.

For a par 5, McCormick prefers the 11th. Depending the tee, it's from 560 to 660 yards. "It's a true three-shot par 5 for 99 percent of golfers. It leaves a test with a wedge shot coming in. It's one of those rare par 5s where five's a good score."

McCormick believes the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Dove Mountain is difficult, but playable. "We have five sets of tees out here. If you keep your ego in check, and pick the right set of tees, the golf course is a lot more playable."

He likes the creativity afforded the good player. While the greens have "a ton of movement, lots of times those slopes keep your ball close to the hole."




Tournament history


At the 1996 Presidents Cup, golf's five world governing bodies — the European Tour, Japan Golf Tour Organization, PGA TOUR, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour — reached agreement on several key elements of professional golf designed to create new international events, beginning in 1999.

Those international events were announced in October 1997 when the Federation introduced the World Golf Championships. The World Golf Championships were developed to enhance the competitive structure of professional golf worldwide while preserving the traditions and strengths of the individual Tours and their events.  The Accenture Match Play Championship was the first-ever World Golf Championships event, staged in February 1999.

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