I recently had the opportunity to photograph #TheOven15, a two day golf tournament created by Ricky Potts. Ricky’s passion for golf has inspired him to be a personal advocate for the growth of the game. He got the idea to hold a tournament in the Valley of the Sun after relocating to Arizona three years ago. Having grown up in Indiana where the winter snow and ice prevents golfing year round, Ricky decided there was no way he was going to let a little desert heat keep him from playing while the sun was shining.
Golfers traveled from around the country and as far away as Germany to play a combined 51 holes in two days. The weekend started on Friday evening with a pairings party at Four Peaks Grill & Tap where players had a chance to get to know one another over an ice cold pint of local craft beer. It was the beginning of what would turn out to be a perfect weekend of golf in the desert!
With both rounds being held at Troon-managed golf courses, Saturday took the golfers to Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, Arizona. Players teed off at 11:00 a.m. for their 24 hole round. The first 18 holes found a few of the players hitting their way out of the many “dunes” scattered throughout the native desert landscape course. After a short milkshake break at the clubhouse with just enough time to breath in the expansive mountain views, players moved to the #miniDunes for their final 6 holes. #miniDunes is a 6 hole short course built into the floor of the driving range designed for fun in the sun and was a great way to end the day. Round 2 brought the golfers back to Scottsdale on Sunday to play 27 holes at Kierland Golf Club. They have three courses at Kierland including the Acacia Course, the Ironwood Course and the Mesquite Course. Tee times beginning at 7:57 a.m., overcast skies in the am and the lush green grass helped to keep the morning a bit cooler. By midday the beverage cart was a welcomed site as the #TheOven15 warmed up once again. The heat definitely didn’t keep the players from enjoying themselves as could be seen from the smiles, laughs, high fives and fist bumps around the course. Social media was a buzz as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Periscope lit up with #TheOven15 and it’s laundry list of related hashtags… #Golow, #DrinkMoreWater, #BareFootBrothers, #BreakTheInternet, and #TeamGermany, just to name a few. After the final #tensome made it to the clubhouse the festivities were moved to the Scotch Library inside The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. Golfers were greeted by Scotch Ambassadors in full highland dress and were given a chance to relax and cool off as they enjoyed a scotch tasting and light appetizers. Finally, as cigars were passed and the bagpipes played while the Arizona sun set over the course, Toby Baldwin would be crowned champion of #TheOven15.
With temps soaring above 105 degrees both days, the atmosphere on the course remained light and lively and downright comical at times. The field of 2 ladies and thirty-two gentlemen have formed a special bond. Thanks in part to Ricky and social media I have no doubt these friendships will last a lifetime. Many are already planning their return for #TheOven16.