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Random Thoughts on ESPN Reporters, the American Golf Corporation, Lou Holtz, and More

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Some random thoughts from around the world of travel and golf while waiting for pay-per-view Masters packages...

For those who think that only millionaire athletes can be pompous pains in the rear, we submit diminutive ESPN reporter Jimmy Roberts. On his weekly Charlotte-based radio show "On the Green," host Bret Wright told a tale of how Roberts wouldn't play in the 1999 U.S. Open media golf outing unless he was provided with a caddie.

Roberts told tournament and Pinehurst Resort officials that he wanted to "experience the course the way the (professional) players experienced it," and according to Wright, refused to tee off until a looper was made available for his round. An hour and more than a few p---ed off journalists later, officials returned with a caddie they'd usurped from a nearby club and the outing finally got underway.

Wright, a card-carrying member of the PGA of America, and a number of other gutsy reporters opted to play the famed No. 2 Course from the championship tees to gain an appreciation for the classic Donald Ross design. Wright said he and members of his foursome were appalled when they came upon Roberts and his caddie playing from the white member tees on one of the course's longer holes.

So much for experiencing the course the way the players experience it, Jimmy, and so much for members of the fourth estate being humble servants of the reading public.

Raising Arizona

It will be at least another year before a new golf course opens in the Grand Strand, which now touts itself as "Golf Town USA." Golf course construction has also slowed to a snail's pace in Hilton Head, Charleston and Pinehurst, where the majority of projects are remodels. I'd like to believe this is a national trend, but then I take a look at what's coming down the pipe in Arizona, and I am awestruck.

It is not so much the new course construction in the Valley of the Sun that floors me, but recently opened layouts at Quintero Country Club, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Reservation (We-Ko-Pa), and Desert Ridge provide an impressive arsenal of new facilities. But the sheer number of new resort rooms hitting the Phoenix/Scottsdale market over the next few months is mind-boggling.

The Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale is a 735-room, 10-story hotel, scheduled to open on Nov. 3. The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass is a 500-room resort hotel located next to the Whirlwind Golf Club. The JW Marriott at Desert Ridge is slated to open Nov. 30 with an eye-popping 950 rooms.

Arizona is primarily a "fly" market for traveling golfers, with an overwhelming majority of visitors arriving via the airlines. These mega resorts were obviously planned pre-9-11-01, and it will be interesting to see how many heads hit beds this winter, especially considering that the corporate travel market has been hit the hardest over the past year.

I had a chance to visit both Desert Ridge and Wild Horse Pass last winter when the resort hotels were beginning to take shape. Believe me, they are both first class projects that will only add to the Valley of the Sun's reputation as one of the best golf destinations in the world. Marriott's area director of golf Kevin Stockford assured me at the time that Marriott, for one, was in for the long haul and I can't imagine that Westin or Sheraton are thinking any differently.

"We didn't build this hotel for 2003 and 2004," Stockford told GolfArizona.com last February. "We built it for 2020. Sure, we are concerned about the travel industry, but the bookings have been solid, and we are even sold out for next January."

This is the type of foresight and resolve the entire golf and resort industry needs to possess, but sometimes the dollars just get in the way.

Holtz Set to Join Augusta National

The chance for University of South Carolina head football coach Lou Holtz to make a statement by declining an invitation to join Augusta National seems to have came and went along with the Gamecocks' chances of beating Georgia last Saturday.

We say good for him. Holtz's decision to join the embattled club is his business and his business only. Just as Augusta National's decision not to admit a woman member in the past 69 years is its business and its business only. So what if Holtz works for a public institution and basks in the national limelight each Saturday afternoon in the fall?

Sit back and wait for it, because Holtz will get razzed for this decision. But here's the thing -in two or three years, the venerable 'ole ball coach will be off the sideline, out of coaching, and thinking about ways to lower his score at Amen Corner.

Question of the Week: GPS in Golf Carts, Take it or Leave it

Those nifty little GPS screens some courses are putting in golf carts these days can be viewed in one of two ways. One, they are facts of life in this technologically overrun world that we live in, and they actually assist players in making better decisions and improve the pace of play. Two, they are a smack in the face of tradition, sportsmanship, and strategy since figuring your own yardages is an age-old part of an age-old game.

My take? To me, golf carts are already a smack in the face of tradition, a detriment to pace of play, and just another reason Americans are perceived by our foreign counterparts as sloths. So if you are going to take a buggy and fill it with Budweiser, you might as well have the Sega video game screen hanging down from the lid. All golf courses, however, should provide adequate yardage systems for those of us who want to hoof it. Email me at sharp@travelgolf.com and let me know what side of the GPS fence you stand on.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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