Former Arizona State golfers reminisce as Karsten closes for good

Golfweek

Former Arizona State golfers reminisce as Karsten closes for good

Architecture

Former Arizona State golfers reminisce as Karsten closes for good

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After 30 years, 10 NCAA team championships, 10 individual national champions and 16 conference championships, Arizona State’s Karsten Golf Course has closed for good.

The golf course, an 18-hole facility designed by Pete Dye and opened in September 1989, hosted its final day of play Sunday.

The site now awaits development. The property, which sits about seven miles east of Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, is part of the 330-acre ASU athletic facilities district, created in 2010 by the Arizona Legislature. The area is now called the Novus Innovation Corridor with a master plan by ASU and Catellus Development Corporation.

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Sitting in the shadows of Sun Devil Stadium just east of ASU’s Tempe campus, Karsten was home to a long line of future PGA Tour and LPGA pros.

The pro shop had two shelves of tour bags of former Sun Devils, and it was a who’s who of golf: Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm, Anna Nordqvist, Blair O’Neal and Azahara Munoz, among others.

Tour bags of former ASU golfers lined up at Karsten Golf Course in Tempe (Golfweek)

Tour bags of former ASU golfers lined up at Karsten Golf Course in Tempe (Golfweek)

The course is also a trigger for a stream of memories, many of which came flooding back as a handful of former Sun Devils were asked about their college stomping grounds Saturday at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.

“I played there 2000 through 2004,” said Chez Reavie, who won the U.S. Amateur Public Links title – and the ensuing invite to the Masters – as a sophomore at ASU in 2001.

“A lot of great memories, a lot of BBQs before football games, chipping and putting contests. A lot of great rounds early Saturday morning, although in college it seemed way too early, but yea, a lot of great memories.

“It’s a good golf course. I think it’s become maybe a little outdated, just because guys are hitting it so far now. … But it’s a very fun golf course to play.”

ASU Karsten opened in 1989. (Golfweek)

Paul Casey was a junior in 1999 when he led the Sun Devils to their 10th conference title and fifth in a row.

“It’s a university golf course and there’s not many great university golf courses, and Karsten. … we used to call it Karsten National,” said Casey, who won three Pac-10 individual titles during his four-year ASU career. “It was funky. It’s Pete Dye at his, like, most diabolical. It really is. I had a hole-in-one on 16, the par 3. I don’t think I ever hit the green more than 3 times in my entire college career, but I managed to have a hole-in-one once.”

The practice area had a driving range with public tee boxes and, on the other end, a tee for ASU players.

“I remember we used to get battered by people at the other end of the driving range, the public driving range,” Casey said, seemingly with an endless array of college stories. “I remember standing there with (Pat) Perez one day – lots of Perez stories – and we used to get battered by golf balls, people hitting drivers at us, because it was too short. There’s a direction you could hit (safely), but they used to hit it at us. Pat’s getting (mad) one day and he eyes up this guy on the other end, 270 yards away. … and Pat’s like, ‘It’s the guy in blue. It’s the guy in blue’. So Pat pulls out the driver. ‘I’m going to get him.’ He tees one up, launches one down there, drops the guy. … but the guy right next to the guy in blue (laughter) who was a total innocent bystander. And it’s like ‘Ha, that’ll teach them!’

Casey said he lived in apartments next to the course and that he could see the place from his apartment.

The 2000 U.S. Amateur champion trophy won by Jeff Quinney of ASU. (Golfweek)

Matt Jones, who played for ASU from 1999 to 2001 and now lives in Scottsdale, used to ride his bike to the course.

“(The course) being on campus meant a lot,” Jones said. “I’d ride a bike. I never had a car in college. It was an easy ride. From campus? Maybe a mile. From where I lived, probably two, three miles.”

“It was nice being able to walk across the street from school and go hit balls and hang out. That was the best part,” said Perez, a Sun Devil from 1994 to 1997. “Those were some of my best days ever. Because it was just golf. You didn’t think about… you know, this was pre-Tiger … (before guys left early for the PGA Tour). You didn’t do it at that time. Everybody finished (school) and you played golf and that was it.”

Phil Mickelson plays Karsten Golf Course during a 2011 alumni event. photo: Nick Oza/The Arizona Republic

Mickelson returned to play the course in 2011 as part of an alumni event. He later helped design the practice complex at Papago Golf Course, a City of Phoenix property that the ASU golf teams have moved into. In 2014, ASU signed a 30-year agreement with the city of Phoenix to manage the Papago course and last year completed construction of The Thunderbirds Golf Complex practice facility.

The price of progress doesn’t seem to add up, at least to Perez.

“I think it’s a real shame that we’re going to lose it,” he said. “I think if they put the same money into it that they’re going to do at Papago, I think it would be pretty cool. I think it’s awesome to have your own facility. You’d never move football off, or basketball off. But the golf team doesn’t get the same love. Baseball, we got one of the best baseball teams in the country and they’re off campus, too. I can’t figure it out. But you know, it’s not my call to make. I wish they’d keep it because I think it’s fun for the kids.

(Editor’s note: ASU baseball moved out of its on-campus Packard Stadium to nearby Phoenix Municipal Stadium after the Oakland A’s, who used the complex as its spring-training home, left for a stadium in nearby Mesa).

But Karsten Golf Course will always be a happy place for these Sun Devils.

“I played there two and a half weeks ago and it didn’t seem as tough now as it did then. I’ve probably gotten better,” Jones said. “But it was fun to get back there, and it’s sad that it’s closing. We were very lucky to have that facility. They’ve done a good job with what they’ve done over at Papago.”

“It was cool,” Casey said. “The Karsten family deserves a massive shout out. … Karsten Solheim and the Solheim family paid for it. Which is pretty cool.”

The ASU Karsten era

Men’s NCAA championships
1990, 1996
Women’s NCAA championships
1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2009, 2017
Men’s individual national champions
Phil Mickelson (1989, 1990, 1992)
Todd Demsey (1993)
Alejandro Canizares (2003)
Women’s individual national champions
Emilee Klein (1994)
Kristel Mourgue d’Algue (1995)
Grace Park (1999)
Azahara Munoz (2008)
Monica Vaughn (2017)
ASU’s Pac-10/12 men’s golf championships
1989, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2008
ASU’s Pac-10/12 women’s golf championships
1987, 1988, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2007, 2009
Ben Hogan Award winners
Jon Rahm (2015)
Jon Rahm (2016)
Haskins Award winners
Phil Mickelson (1990)
Phil Mickelson (1991)
Phil Mickelson (1992)

Golfweek‘s Steve DiMeglio and The Arizona Republic‘s Jeff Metcalfe contributed to this article.

 

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