Fore Family: LIV Golf Tucson 2023 attracts friends, families

LIV Golf Tucson offered spectators entertainment beyond the golf course last weekend at The Gallery Golf Club. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

LIV Golf’s Louis Oosthuizen took note of the dedication fans showed throughout the 18-hole course at The Gallery Golf Club. “Hats off to the people walking around here,” he said. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

MARANA – Upon arrival, fans parked miles away from The Gallery Golf Club and bussed to the course in a complimentary shuttle service provided by the LIV Golf Tucson.

After reaching their destination, the patrons were greeted by a competitive environment among golfers. In addition to the golf tournament, LIV Golf Tucson created experiences for fans of all ages to enjoy such as a putting area for kids, chipping wiffle balls into a pool, pickleball, golf simulators and plenty of food vendors. A steady stream of music played in the background to add to the lively atmosphere last weekend in Marana, Arizona.

Similar to the raucous environment at the Phoenix Open, The Gallery Golf Club was overrun by golf lovers during the three-day event. However, while the Phoenix Open required silence when players shot, LIV Golf Tucson allowed talking and yelling during backswings without penalty. Another key difference was the smaller crowd size, but LIV hopes to continue growing after its founding in 2021.

“They are really trying to attract families, but still make it friendly and fun with drinks and all the virtual simulators,” said Gabby Sanchez, who works with the LIV Golf event staff. “We’ve got kids golf clubs so that makes it fun so even the kids can play around with it. They’re trying to target different age ranges and not just a certain demographic.”

LIV provided a fan zone for friends and family to lounge in chairs and watch the tournament on a mega-television screen. Overall, the logistics of the activities were an essential part of making the tournament a great success.

“I’ve worked at other golf events that have been very chaotic,” Sanchez said. “Overall, we have good organization and a great layout.”

As much as LIV coordinators planned and controlled the activities around the event, there was only so much effort they could put into navigating the golf course. The course layout made the rounds challenging for fans to follow players from hole to hole, with no shortcuts mapped out. The dedication fans showed while walking up long and hilly fairways didn’t go unnoticed by LIV’s golfers.

“Hats off to the people walking around here,” Louis Oosthuizen said. “I said yesterday, I don’t want to be someone walking around this golf course. It’s a beast to walk.”

Added Marc Leishman: “It’s amazing. With the Birdie Shack there on 16, the atmosphere is great around the entire course. The guys that do walk down to that 8th green, 7th green, they’ve got dedication.”

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Tucson resident and PGA Tour fan Mark Shafer attended LIV Golf Tucson for the new experience and believes LIV Golf coming to Tucson could help grow the sport in the area.

“Tucson has always had some sort of professional tour since the early (19)30s or 40s,” Shafer said. “This is another golf tournament that will hopefully bring in more people. Based on that, I believe golfing in Tucson will be more popular.”

The LIV Golf tour has been in the spotlight of controversy since its inception. As the tournament attempts to get established within the golf world, numerous activists and organizations have protested because of the controversial financial backing from the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund.

The LIV Golf organization is comprised of 14 golf tournaments. The 12, four-man teams compete for regular-season points that determine their standings for the team championship at the end of the season. Along with the team competition at every tournament, each golfer competes individually. At the end of the 2023 regular season, after the team championship, the top 24 players will automatically qualify for the 2024 LIV Golf season.

This past week’s stop awarded winning players a total purse of $25 million, which has attracted a handful of former PGA Tour players to leave for LIV Golf, including Phil Mickelson. Danny Lee took home $4 million of the pot with his playoff victory Sunday.

LIV Golf will return to action and introduce itself to fans in Orlando, Florida at Orange County National starting March 31.

Aaron Healy AIR-in HEE-lee (he/him)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Aaron Healy expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Healy, who is assigned to Cronkite News this semester, has covered sports events for Varsity Xtra in Phoenix.