Arizona’s sporting universe hooked a rabbit’s foot during May, when the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain named Jeff McCormick head golf professional.
Each time the rising 32-year-old Oklahoma native heads up a new course, it seems a local team wins their respective championship.
The trend started in 2000 during McCormick’s first gig as assistant pro at the Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, Mo., when the St. Louis Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, Florida Marlins and Miami Heat since benefited from their proximity to McCormick’s work.
Then, ten months after McCormick opened the Cottonwood Hills Golf Club in Hutchinson, Kansas in 2007, the Jayhawks’ hoops team rode March Madness to victory.
“This might be the year to lay down cash on some Arizona teams,” McCormick smiled. “I just can’t tell you which one it will be.”
Clairvoyance aside, McCormick’s return to desert golf is a happy one, after his first taste, as Scottsdale’s Camelback Golf Club tournament coordinator from 2001 to 2003.
The experience will come in handy while hiring golf staffers and prepping Marana’s new Jack Nicklaus Signature course for the 2009 World Golf Championships — Accenture Match Play Tournament in February.
Though it’s rare anyone calls pre-tournament 55-hour workweeks a “lull,” McCormick’s used to long hours on the links, raised on a course in Duncan, Okla., where his high school golf team won their state title.
“We would go out there and play sun up to sun down, and come back with blisters on our ears and noses,” McCormick said.
These days, he’s likely to break out the sunscreen while training his crew for the January opening of the 850-acre resort — Ritz-Carlton’s largest development in the continental United States.
McCormick says perks like the resort’s “caddy concierge service,” which assigns a personal golf assistant to each playing guest, will set a new standard for Southern Arizona’s golf scene.
Already, the nine non-tournament “Wild Burro” holes are open, and much of the course’s remainder is seeded and enjoying the sun. The 250-room hotel won’t open until October 2009, however, eight months after the fan-friendly course hosts its marquee tournament.
“We all have our fingers crossed, hoping Tiger will get healthy in time to make it back for the event,” McCormick said.
One thing McCormick, or anyone else at the moment, can’t predict is whether the course’s namesake, Nicklaus, will surface for the golf showcase’s inaugural rounds.
“We’d certainly like to have him show for the ribbon cutting,” McCormick said.
Until then, local Golden Bear sightings remain the stuff of legend, along with a Phoenix Coyotes Stanley Cup victory — unless McCormick’s mojo can help pull it off.