One of my favorite aspects of being a college golf coach is getting to determine the schedule my team will play during the season. Generally, I do my best to schedule tournaments that allow us to compete against other teams within our conference.
One tournament, however, stood out amongst all others when I was putting together our schedule for this fall. The competition will be strong, but it’s not the competition I am most excited about.
It’s the venue.
I’m taking my team to play a tournament on my former college course in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I haven’t been back there in nearly twenty years, and I can’t wait to share some of my favorite memories with my team.
The Championship Course at The University of New Mexico was my home course throughout my college career. It has always been regarded as one of the premier college courses in the country, and I feel lucky to have an opportunity to take my California State University, Los Angeles team to compete there.
I experienced some amazing moments on that golf course, and I suspect more memories will enter my mind as I walk those fairways with my team.
In 1992, our team hosted the NCAA Division 1 Championship.
We were a solid team ranked in the Top 10 entering the tournament, but the real story was the arrival of Arizona State and their top player, Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson was playing his final college tournament, and he was considered by many to be the greatest collegiate golfer of all time. In a fitting end to his college career, Mickelson went on to win the individual championship that week.
He turned professional immediately afterwards.
Fast forward a couple of years to 1994 and the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate. This was the annual tournament that our team hosted, also on the Championship Course.
That year, all the talk leading into the tournament was about the arrival of the Stanford golf team.
They were led by a young freshman playing in his first collegiate tournament. His name was Tiger Woods. I was fortunate to have a front-row seat for Woods’ first round, as I was playing in the group immediately in front of him.
Woods played great and went on to win the tournament himself.
These are just two of the memories I look forward to sharing with my team when we arrive in Albuquerque. As I think back on those days now, it is remarkable to think that the Championship Course played host to Mickelson’s final college tournament, as well as Woods’ first.
It truly is a special place.