64th AT&T Arizona Open at Desert Mountain's Apache Course September 11-13

Notable past champions of the AT&T Arizona Open include Ronnie Black (’87), Danny Briggs (’93, ’95, ’97), Jim Carter (’89, ’96), Todd Demsey (’98), Dale Douglas (’65), R.W. Eaks (’90) and Kermit Zarley (’64). From 1945 to 1959 the legendary Johnny Bulla won 14 consecutive Arizona Opens.

This year the 54-hole stroke play event offers a $100,000 purse and is scheduled for September 11-13 at Desert Mountain’s Apache Course. Records indicate that an amateur golfer has never won the championship.{mosimage}

But that might change.

AT&T, the title sponsor of the event for the last 11 years, has offered an exemption to Philip Francis. The longtime Desert Mountain resident was the 2006 American Junior Golf Association Boys Rolex Player of the Year and 2006 U.S. Junior Amateur Champion. AT&T has also given an exemption to Demsey, who won the championship 10 years ago. The former Arizona State University star has played in 18 PGA Tour events in 2008, made the cut seven times and earned $132,694.

Francis, a UCLA sophomore, has played very well this summer.

He shot a bogey-free 64 in the third round of the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic in July; the 19-year-old was tied for 11th with one round remaining, just four shots out of the lead. His final-round 75 at TPC Deere Run dropped him to T-34 at 7-under, but the tournament was still a step in the right direction.

Jeff McElfresh, vice president and general manager of AT&T Mobility Arizona/New Mexico, thinks so. He said Francis deserves the exemption. “It’s our honor to offer Philip an exemption to the AT&T Arizona Open,” McElfresh said. “It will be a proud moment for us to watch him do well and help participate in his blossoming career. I think he’ll make a run at it.”

Francis said he has played in five or six AT&T Arizona Opens. Remarkably, he made the cut as a 13-year-old. “I’ve had a lot of top 10’s in this event,” Francis said. “A couple years ago I finished fifth. It’s on my home course. If I play well I’ll have a good chance to win.”

Even though Francis struggled a bit as a freshman, the teenager finished 33rd at the NCAA Division I Men’s Championship to help UCLA win the team title. Francis finished 10th at the prestigious Northeast Amateur earlier in the summer. He advanced to match play at the 2008 U.S. Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club.

Will Francis be able to beat men like Don Yrene, director of golf at the Golf Club Scottsdale, and the 2007 Southwest Section PGA Player of the Year? Or veteran section pro’s like Paul Trittler, Randy Wittig and William Dodd, Jr., all leaders of the Bridgestone Player of the Year standings in the regular division? Casey Borque, head golf professional at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix, won the Southwest Section Professional Championship at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in August. Trittler was runner-up.

Another favorite is Scott Frisch. The head golf professional at Desert Mountain's Apache and Outlaw Courses, Frisch bogeyed the 54th hole at Outlaw in 2006 to finish a stroke behind winner Bret Guetz. Redemption on his “other” home course would be nice. “I would hope so,” Frisch said, “but you never know. Whoever is playing well at the time will be a favorite. A lot of it depends on the wind and who is hitting it straight.”

With their finish at the Southwest Section Professional Championship, Dean Vomacka, David Kluver, Jeff Yurkeiwicz and Chris Andresall also qualified for the 2009 Professional National Championship at Twin Warriors Golf Club in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M. And don’t forget the defending champion. Julien Trudeau won the 2007 AT&T Arizona Open at The Golf Club Scottsdale.

The odds say Francis will be in contention. “AT&T is a longtime sponsor of the event,” Francis said, “and it’s a good opportunity for me to take advantage of this exemption.” The winner, Francis knows, secures a spot in the 2009 FBR Open.”

Curt Hudek, executive director of the Southwest Section PGA, said the organization is pleased to return to Desert Mountain. The par 72 Apache Course, which has three par 3’s, three par 4’s and three par 5’s on its back nine, is the fourth (of six) Jack Nicklaus Signature Courses at Desert Mountain. “It’s going to be a really good golf course for the AT&T Arizona Open format,” Hudek said, “especially as far as entertaining our sponsors and conducting a single two-day Pro-am.”

Also notable is the Southwest Section PGA conducts the event in a manner that allows it to contribute to the Phoenix Children's Hospital. In 2007, $10,000 was donated to PCH. Mr. Hudek said he expects the amount to be the same this year.

The second longest-running professional event behind the PGA Tour’s FBR Open in Scottsdale, the AT&T Arizona Open is also one of the most prestigious events of its kind in the United States. “That’s primarily because of our players and our generous sponsors,” Hudek said. “It always has one of the best fields and largest purses in the country and that’s because of our players and the involvement of AT&T.”

Qualifying to compete in AT&T Arizona Open

Even if you're a member of the Southwest Section PGA or a very good amateur golfer, it's tough to qualify for the 64th AT&T Arizona Open.

Amateurs with a low USGA Handicap Index - in this case 5.0 or less - can enter a qualifying event and compete against the section pros for about 100 of 144 available spots.

'It's really a true open, with the only stipulation that you have to have a handicap of 5.0 or less,” said Hudek.

64th AT&T Arizona Open

 When: 54-hole stroke play event runs from September 11-13.

 Where: Apache Course at Desert Mountain Club, 11124 E. Prospect Point Drive, Scottsdale.

Course Record: 63 (Andrew Magee in 1997 and John German in 1999).

AT&T AZ Open Section Qualifier Friday August 29 @ Gainey Ranch G.C.

AT&T AZ Open Media Day Tuesday, September 2 @ Desert Mountain Apache Course

AT&T AZ Open Qualifier September 3 @ Superstition Springs

AT&T AZ Pro-Am - Monday & Tuesday September 8 & 9  @ Desert Mountain Apache Course

AT&T AZ Open - Wednesday September 10 Practice Round @ Desert Mountain Apache Course

AT&T AZ Open - Thursday, Friday, Saturday September 11,12,13 @ Desert Mountain Apache Course

Apache, the fourth Jack Nicklaus Signature Course at Desert Mountain, opened in January of 1996. Gracefully undulating through the gentle desert terrain, the 7,300-yard, par-72 course features a more traditional approach to golf. Smooth transitions to the natural terrain, ample grassy approaches to greens and gently rolling fairways provide the golfer with a variety of options when selecting a shot.

Large greens appear as extensions of the fairways, providing excellent targets while also accepting bump-and-run shots and high approaches. Mastering few tricky uphill or downhill lies is the key to scoring well on this challenging, yet playable, golf course.

 The field: The 144-player field includes club professionals, mini-tour players, past champions and a number of amateurs who either qualified or were invited to play.

 Purse: $100,000. The winner receives $20,000

 Designers: Jack Nicklaus

 Defending champion: Julien Trudeau, a Scottsdale resident and native of Montreal, Canada.

• Information: (480) 443-9002.


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