A couple years ago, I babysat for a family in north Scottsdale. Their golden retriever’s name was Bogey. It took me three months of employment to figure out that Bogey was a golf term—and that’s about as much as I know about golf. Well, that and how to clap politely. But when your boss comes over to you and your coworker on an overcast Wednesday morning and asks if you want two VIP tent passes to Accenture Match Play (did I mention there’s unlimited free alcohol and food in that tent?), it’s an opportunity you don’t pass up.
Accenture Match Play is a big deal in Tucson, an annual World Golf Championship that takes the top 64 players on the planet and pits them against each other through several single-elimination rounds. The champion wins more than a million dollars.
Tucson is a golf haven every winter. The weather, 70 degrees and a welcome polar opposite to the polar vortex, is only part of the attraction. The Old Pueblo has a collection of world-class courses, designed by the likes of Tom Fazio (Ventana Canyon), Arnold Palmer (Starr Pass) and, most recently, Notah Begay (Sewailo). You can see why people visit year after year, and many residents drive their golf carts more than their cars.
Accenture Match Play takes place just outside the city, at Dove Mountain in Marana, a Jack Nicklaus design. The crowd at Accenture seems to be a mixture of three groups: People who are die-hard golf fans, people who are there for corporate networking and people who are there because, “heck, Accenture Match Play is in Tucson, let’s go check it out!” I most closely identified with the last group.
This tournament was the first time I’d ever even stepped foot on a golf course. Needless to say, I had no idea what to expect (except a vodka tonic, please). If you’re in the same position, it’s totally ok—I didn’t know a damn thing about golf and I still enjoyed myself.
I texted (ok, bragged to) my golf-following friend as soon as Rory McIlroy hit a par 3, 16th hole in two swings. I think they call that a birdie? I watched as McIlroy’s posse of caddies and advisors loaded up and trekked on foot from hole to hole to hole to hole, wondering how long it took them to stop being mesmerized by his Northern Irish accent. Did they constantly force him to say aluminum? I quieted myself when volunteers, dressed in a beautiful teal shade similar to Tiffany blue, threw their hands in the air, clutching signs that said, “SILENCE: GOLF IN PLAY.” As soon as the signs went down, I resumed my conversation with my coworker about how beautiful the Catalinas looked today, how the saguaro cacti surrounding each hole and covering each mountain take about 40 years to grow to just four feet tall. Many reached with their 50-year-old (plus!) arms seven feet into the sky; all while tiny white golf balls flew 300+ feet past, over a green and manicured path.
I think, even if I hadn’t had VIP tickets, I still would have enjoyed many of the same things I delighted in at Accenture Match Play: the people watching, the weather, Rory McIlroy’s accent. If the tournament returns to Tucson next year, I’m definitely going to consider going. If my boss decides to give me VIP tickets and parking again, you’ll find me at the Canyon Club, vodka tonic nearby, golf clapping when appropriate.