Coming onto the scene at the same time as a tree-slamming microburst, Oro Valley Country Club head golf pro Scott Schultz wasn’t sure if it was an omen.
If it was, it was a good one. In his three years since, the select park course has recovered from the midsummer weather blast and renewed itself as the traditional, old-home grounds for many golfers.
“It really is traditional,” said Schultz, 32, who came to the club after more than 10 years as an assistant pro in this area. “It makes me feel more at home. I’m from Missoula, Mont., and am used to tree-lined courses.
“People from the Midwest and East also love the grass from tee to green. You don’t get penalized as with the desert. It’s a little more enjoyable; you can tee it up and not worry about running around the snakes.”
The club was established in 1959, and eucalyptus and pine trees grew stately under the shadow of the Santa Catalina Mountains’ Pusch Ridge. It became a desert oasis of sorts.
The entire 18-hole acreage – 7,025 yards with Bermuda and lush winter over-seeded rye and fine-texture, thick bent-grass greens – runs along the line of the Santa Catalinas. Driving on a par-4 hole, you might think you’re in the mountains.
The club promotes a complete golfing challenge, a use every-club-in-the bag situation. Fade, draw, hit it straight, over the bunker if you can and deal with tricky greens. Beauty and strength.
“There are not a lot of holes next to each other,” Schultz said. “It just feels good to play here. We are protected from this side of the mountain and get 20 mile per hour winds when it will howl in other places.”
The valley effect makes the microburst that wrenched up whole trees in the summer of 2006 one of those devious mysteries of nature.
There was little significant damage anywhere else in the Northwest and Oro Valley areas.
“Most of the damage was on the back nine,” said Schultz, who arrived at the club a few months before. “Not a lot you can notice now, but hole seven was completely altered. It tore up three, four eucs and a couple of pines. It opened it up completely. There was a tree down on the golf course 10 to 12 feet high. It took us two hours to just go around the course because of the damage.”
If that weren’t enough, a few weeks later a private plane made an emergency landing on the 10th fairway.
Schultz came to Tucson with his family as a pre-high schooler, went to the University of Arizona and stayed in the area after school, getting his golf-business start working for Jack Connors’ old River Road driving range.
Schultz and his wife, Jenny, a member of Salpointe Catholic High School’s first female golf team, have a legacy going.
Son, Ryan, 3, plays overtime, swinging at a plastic tee, although on the course you can’t beat a ride in the golf cart. The couple also have a newborn daughter, Tiffany.
Schultz has worked as an assistant at El Conquistador, Skyline Country Club and The Gallery, honing abilities in competition – once winning the Pima County Amateur – administration and what you might call valuable lore.
Picking the brains of those such as Mike Hayes, Jeff Kern, Steve Porter, Dave Powell, Mike Wilson . . .
“A lot of locals to learn from,” he said.”
The Oro Valley club under Schultz now has an amphitheater type clubhouse and pro shop, and has rebuilt, or rather regrown.
There are no visible signs of the summer burst’s work other than airy No. 7. On old No. 14, a giant tree guards the left side.
“If anybody would want a tree to fall down, it’s at this one,” Schultz said, laughing.
It’s an example of the course’s difficulty. On No. 11, long hitters might opt to go over a bunker; shorter hitters play to the right and climb up to the green. On No. 14, you can’t play a big fade; it’s more of a straight shot. No. 16 makes you play down a narrow chute.
“You have to create something that moves,” Schultz said. “It’s a shotmaker’s choice and you can’t overpower it.”
No. 9 has a minilake to the left and 220 yards uphill. It’s picturesque and one tough par 4, Schultz said. The crown jewel.
“Our course basically sells itself,” Schultz said. “Most people who play here say, ‘Wow.’ ”
ORO VALLEY COUNTRY CLUB
Tees: championship, regular, intermediate
Pro: Scott Schultz