Two of Tucson City Golf's five courses, money-draining Silverbell and Fred Enke, are doomed.
That much became ominously clear last week when Doris Pulsifer, chief of resources for Arizona State Parks, outlined how both courses could legally be converted to parks and recreation properties.
At a meeting of the Tucson City Golf Greens Committee, Pulsifer said the golf courses could be turned into "some form of outdoor public recreation," as permitted via a federal grant partnership that was created when Silverbell opened in 1979 and Fred Enke in 1983.
Both courses are losing money significantly; play on the city's muni golf courses is down almost 38 percent in the last 10 years, carrying a deficit of more than $6 million.
The only way to save golf at Silverbell and Fred Enke is to lease them to a private buyer. If someone comes forth and is willing, it would have to be approved by the City Council.
That should be a no-brainer; wouldn't leasing the courses for even $1 a year be better than continuing to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each year?
Fred Gray, director of Tucson Parks and Recreation, did not make a recommendation last week, but said, "We know we can't do nothing; we have to do something."
The root problem is that a city's Parks and Recreation Department isn't suited to be in the golf business in the 21st century. You need business minds, management groups and marketing people operating golf courses, not golfers.
The competition among the 51 Southern Arizona golf courses is brutal; web entities such as golfnow.com have siphoned off business in an industry already reeling from America's economic struggle.
Greens committee member David Kopec said, "The existing model is going to kill us."
If it's not dead already.
Camarena-Williams' injury comes at worst possible time
Tucson's Jill Camarena-Williams is projected as a strong contender for a bronze or silver medal in the Olympics shot put competition Monday.
But her coach, UA throws coach Craig Carter, told me Saturday, "I have no idea what to expect; it's not good."
Camarena-Williams, a volunteer coach at the UA, injured her back at a pre-Olympics camp in Alabama three weeks ago. She had four injections in her back once arriving in London but continues to experience numbness in her left leg and foot. Carter said she has a bulging disk, and doctors ordered her not to throw for almost two weeks, until Monday.
Could the timing be any worse?
Leverenz's bronze is payoff for Conquistadores' charity
The value of the Tucson Conquistadores and their philanthropy to youth sports in Southern Arizona was felt when Sahuaro High grad Caitlin Leverenz won the bronze medal in the 200-meter individual medley Tuesday in London. During her days as a swimmer for the financially needy El Dorado Aquatics Club, Leverenz was able to travel to national and age-group meets via funding from the Conquistadores. … After coaching Mountain View High School to 18 victories in his first season as baseball coach, ex-Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Erik Sable has left the school. He will join new Catalina Foothills coach Jim Baldwin in an attempt to restore the Falcons as one of the state's prominent baseball programs. … Former Sunnyside baseball player Gabe Moraga coached the Blue Devils' American Legion team, sponsored by Jim Click, to the state championship last week in Phoenix. Pitcher Sammy Sosa - yes, Sammy Sosa - was the MVP. The Sunnyside team will open play in the Western Regionals this week in California. … High school football season began last week and for the first time since 1976 in Tucson it did not include Amphitheater Hall of Fame coach Vern Friedli, who retired in March. Amphi will hold a Celebration of the Seasons Sept. 22 to honor Friedli for his 36 years of excellence. Vern's son, Ted Friedli, a former ASU lineman, wrote a poignant Facebook tribute to his father last week. It said, in part: "I will miss the moment right before the game, in the weight room, as the last bits of strategy are discussed, the team takes a knee, holds hands, and my father recites the same pregame prayer he has since I was old enough to walk."
Scelfo visits coaching staffs of Eagles, Steelers, Falcons
Arizona's quarterbacks coach of 2010 and 2011, Frank Scelfo, who has moved back to Louisiana and will not coach this year, spent two weeks visiting the coaching staffs of the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons. He was allowed to sit in coaching meetings and further his coaching résumé on the field. "I watched Nick Foles in Philly and I can tell you he doesn't look like a rookie," said Scelfo. "He belongs, but he's got a tough battle to win the backup job there." Scelfo said that ex-UA defensive back Robert Golden has impressed the Steelers with his willingness to be a physical special teams player. … CDO grad Gentry Hicks, who completed his freshman season on the Utah Utes golf team, is having a break-out summer. He was the medalist in the Utah Amateur last month, shooting 66. Last week Hicks took it one step higher: He qualified for the Aug. 13-19 U.S. Amateur by shooting 74-69 in Park City, Utah, and earning one of three spots from a field of 70 players.
More short stuff
Sidelined by knee injury, ex-UA shortstop Mejia may help Cats
Injured in a base-running mishap last week for Class A Batavia (N.Y.), tearing his ACL and putting his baseball career on hold for about nine months, 2012 UA All-America shortstop Alex Mejia is likely to return to Tucson to work toward his degree. UA coach Andy Lopez believes Mejia's post-playing career is likely to be that of a coach; a college degree is required to coach in college baseball. Mejia, thus, could wind up as a volunteer coach at Arizona during the 2013 fall and winter season. … Cienega High and UA baseball product Seth Mejias-Brean ran his hitting streak to 20 games Friday night for the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League. The league record is 32 games. Mejias-Brean already has 27 RBIs in 25 games and is hitting .388. … When Lance and Kelly Fowler coached Tucson Desert Thunder to the national championship in ASA softball last week in Oklahoma City, it completed 12 years of volunteer work and of making ends meet. With no corporate sponsorship help, Desert Thunder's 15-girl traveling squad and three coaches (and their parents/families) must pay their own way for travel and lodging during four weeks of ASA summer softball. Some families drove to Oklahoma City for the finals. Some families rented a house at a week-long stay in a Colorado tournament and slept three-families per house. It all paid off. … Sahuaro grad Morgan McKeever was a standout shortstop for the Desert Thunder team. Talk about a payoff for a job well done. McKeever started training with ex-UA baseball coach Jerry Stitt when she was 11. Now she is a national champ with a scholarship to Miami of Ohio. … One person who continues to be omitted from lists when talking about former UA gold medalists is Leon Wood. The ex-Wildcat basketball player was part of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics gold medal team. ... UA assistant basketball coach James Whitford was in Flagstaff on Friday, taking part in UA grad and NAU coach Jack Murphy's coaching clinic there. Also on the staff: ex-Wildcats Damon Stoudamire and Josh Pastner. … Salpointe Catholic junior Michaela Crunkleton-Wilson emerged as one of America's top sprinting prospects last week. The two-time state champion was second in the young women's 100 meters (11.75 seconds) at the U.S. Junior Olympic championships in Baltimore. Mountain View freshman Justice Summerset was third in the youth-boys high jump (6- 3/4). … UA assistant basketball coach Book Richardson is the lead recruiter on prep All-America small forward Rondae Jefferson of Chester, Pa. Jefferson has narrowed his choices to Arizona, Memphis, Florida, Syracuse and nearby Temple and Rutgers. Does Chester, Pa., ring a bell to UA fans? It should. When Fred Snowden packed the house at McKale Center in the 1970s, he had on his roster Chester, Pa., products Herman Harris and Len Gordy, and later center Charles Miller.
My two cents
When it comes to UA basketball, fans can't get enough info
On July 16, the UA released a statement stating that it was against NCAA rules to "publicize in any way" the basketball team's preparations for this week's two-game exhibition series in the Bahamas. It said there would be no comment, and no still or video photography permitted.
And then on Friday, the UA released a six-minute video (with photographs) of Sean Miller describing the team's summer practices.
It was not the UA's finest hour.
"Sean just said he didn't want to have a big focus on this and what we're doing right now; he'll talk when he gets back from the tour," athletic director Greg Byrne said.
The conflict here is twofold: one, Arizona has created such interest in its basketball program that the public craves any information and expects to be updated, within reason. Two, the UA has essentially begun to compete for the news with traditional media. It is creating a tenuous, us-against-you relationship.
"The new kids get a lot of attention in the lead-up to the season and during it," Byrne said. "Sean's intention was, 'Can we try to get our feet on the ground before we give them additional exposure?' He would rather downplay this tour a bit and comment later."
No problem there.
Arizona's basketball program, as with some in college basketball, does not open its locker room to media or permit outsiders to watch practice. Miller prefers to be the voice that delivers the message of Arizona basketball. He is very good at it.
Along with Cal's Mike Montgomery and Washington's Lorenzo Romar, Miller is the Pac-12's most insightful, quotable and candid basketball coach. Of late, Miller has become a prolific and thoughtful tweeter.
It's just that in this setting, whatever he gives, Wildcat fans want more. In Tucson, the crisis of the summer isn't about the monsoon or the heat or the price of gas. It's about access to UA basketball information.
That's a good problem to have.