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Don't be annoyed by the Tucson Open; golf's a gas.

TEN GREAT THINGS ABOUT THIS week's Touchstone Energy Tucson Open golf tournament:

10. Tiger Woods isn't in town, Part 1. Can you imagine what we would have been subjected to if that guy had shown up? You just know that the Star would have had a guy shadowing him 24 hours a day for "Tiger's Diary" or some nonsense.

"Friday, 11:32 a.m. Tiger relieved himself (the sitting-down kind). Informed sources tell us that for purposes of hygiene, he uses a single left-handed swipe.

"He publicly endorsed Charmin Quilted to the tune of $1 million a year, but he himself uses a biodegradable wool blend from genetically altered sheep grown on top-secret Tiger Woods Island in the South Pacific. (In a touch of irony, the island was purchased with the money Woods was paid to endorse the many products he pitches but would never actually stoop to use on or for himself. For example, on the island, Nike Golf Ball Airstrip overlooks beautiful Buick Bay.)

"In a real scoop, we've learned that Tiger puts his right sock on before his left. More tomorrow ..."

9. We had a real dry November and December. In other parts of the country, April showers bring May flowers. In Tucson, January golf tournaments do the trick. It's such a cliché, but boy, it sure seems like it rains every year. Back in the '70s and '80s, they moved this sucker around between early January and late February, but the rain just seemed to be attracted to the golf tournament like a tornado to a trailer park.

I suppose it could be worse. Three out of the past five years, Scottsdale's big golf tournament (in March and/or April) has been hit by SNOW!

8. It's like Halloween all over again. It's not very often that you get to see dozens of white men dressed up like pimps. The bright green pants are the best.

7. Tiger Woods isn't in town, Part 2. I know he's the Biggest Thing In Golf, but isn't that like being The Toughest Guy In Ballet Class? The Sporting News recently had the nerve to name Woods the most powerful man in all of sports. Ahead of NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. Ahead of ABC Sports head Don Ohlmeyer. Ahead of whoever it was that had enough clout to yank that really cool Nike commercial about the deranged man with the chainsaw getting winded chasing the athletic woman through the woods.

Oops! Better make that "forest." If I use the word "woods," I might have to pay a royalty.

6. At least for a few days, the underachieving Arizona Wildcat men's basketball team won't automatically be the top story in local sports. And thank goodness for that. Why, just last week, after Stanford smacked the Cats and left them at 8-5, Richard Jefferson was overheard muttering, "Does this mean we're not going to go undefeated?"

And no, Loren, you're not going to be the greatest college basketball team of all time. That issue was decided Thanksgiving weekend, when you lost to a team that is only allegedly in the Big 10.

By the way, Loren, I don't usually refer to sports figures on a first-name basis, but since your last name is ... well, you know ... we're way over budget as it is.

5. I get to run that gauntlet of sponsorship signs along North Shannon Road on the way to Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church on Sunday. The signs were already up last week, but it's a lot more fun driving past them and wondering if some old couple is going to dart out from between a couple of signs and try to jaywalk across Shannon to get to the Omni Tucson National course.

The parking should be a real mess this year. In the past, there was this huge empty space south of the course on Magee where people could park and be shuttled to the tournament. But apparently Don Diamond attended last year's gig, saw the empty space and said, "Why aren't there buildings there?"

Now there are.

4. KWFM DJ Alan Michaels needed the gig. Do you realize that Alan hasn't emceed anything since the day before yesterday?! How do you expect the man to stay at the top of his game when he has to endure such prolonged forced layoffs?

3. Tiger Woods isn't in town, Part 3. Now we get to watch and root for real people with real names. Guys like Fred Funk. I'm sorry; with a name like that, Dude ought to be able to pull all the women in the world.

Woman: What's your name?

FF: (In a Barry White bass) Fred Funk.

Woman: (Swoon!)

Please tell me his favorite band is Parliament.

2. You get to watch Emil Franzi caddy for County Manager Chuck Huckleberry in the Pro-Am. Usually, Emil's only exercise is yelling at C-Span when a Democrat is on. He likes to converse and hates to exercise. So lugging a heavy golf bag around for hours and having to keep his mouth shut is doubly daunting for him.

Mark Twain called golf "A good walk, spoiled." For Emil, it's a good talk, foiled.

1.The Conquistadores, who put on the tournament every year, do wonderful things for the young people of Tucson. These people are special. They bust their butts all year long raising tons of money to pay all the expenses for this thing, including the ever-ballooning purse. They plan it with the precision of an Israeli military operation. And then they miraculously pull it off without a hitch no matter how bad the weather or how many golfers bolt town because somebody else is waving an extra buck-seventy-five for a tournament some other place.

Most importantly, the Conquistadores use the proceeds from the tournament to help fund local youth sports all year round. They're definitely among the Good Guys.

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