JTo say that the owners’ lawyers and the owner of the Ahwatukee Lakes golf course have not reached an agreement in nearly nine years of litigation redefines the meaning of “understatement”.
But it’s not at all hard to see why owners’ attorney Tim Barnes and Lakes Course attorney Daniel Maynard immediately chose the same man to be Superior Court Judge Sara Agne’s special master to oversee rebuilding the course as it heads towards a full reopening in September.
And the fact that Mark Woodward has played every golf course in Ahwatukee except Ahwatukee Lakes makes no difference.
Woodward is Mr. Golf when it comes
course construction and all the facets it involves.
Not only is the 69-year-old Mesa resident’s resume brimming with extensive experience building, maintaining and rebuilding golf courses that earned him inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame, from Arizona in 2020, but he’s also the scion of a family of people doing the same.
The Phoenix native ticks off a dizzying list of parents who are or have been superintendents — the official title for people whose careers involve building, designing, restoring and maintaining golf courses:
“Me, my grandfather, my cousins, my cousin’s two sons, my son, my son-in-law; two or three in-laws, … my sister was a janitor, my cousin’s husband was a janitor, my cousins. So there was a lot in the business. It’s been going on for a long, long time. »
And his dad?
He started working for his grandfather at the Phoenix Country Club in the 1930s and 1940s “when he realized there wasn’t a lot of money in golf back then, so he embarked on the construction. But after his retirement, his father took a job in guest services at Hassayampa Golf Course in Prescott.
“My grandfather started our family in the business in 1938 here in Arizona,” Woodward added. “So it’s our 84th anniversary this year as a family involved in golf in Arizona.”
Although he recently “retired” as Director of Agronomy at Whisper Rock Golf Club in North Scottsdale, he doesn’t just spend his time playing golf, a game he learned to the age of 8 years.
He works as a consultant for golf courses in Arizona as well as a dealership of John Deere lawn mowers specifically designed for golf courses – jobs that he says “keep me active, keep me engaged – and involve me. in the golf industry”.
It didn’t start like this when
Woodward attended Arizona State University, although he naturally worked for his grandfather in golf course management.
He wanted to be a Major League Baseball player but learned shortly after starting ASU that “I wasn’t as good as I thought I was”. So, he earned a BS in Environmental Resources in Agriculture and then followed that up with an MBA from the University of Phoenix.
Then came a series of increasingly important works that the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame summarized at the time of its induction:
“A Certified Golf Course Superintendent / Director of Agronomy (CGCS) who has over 50 years of experience in many facets of the golf industry, including 45 in Arizona, his diverse career has included both stints as superintendent and administrator.
“As Director of Golf Operations for the City of San Diego in 2005, Woodward was responsible for preparing the Torrey Pines South Golf Course to host the 2008 US Open, working closely with the United States Golf Association. For his efforts at Torrey Pines, Woodward was recognized by Golf Inc. Magazine as one of golf’s “Most Admired Operators” in 2006 and in the Top 35 of “Golf’s Most Powerful People” in 2008 and 2009.
“He was CEO of the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America (GCSAA) from 2008 to 2010, and senior vice president of operations for Scottsdale, Arizona-based OB Sports Golf Management from 2013 to 2017. Woodward served on the Cactus and the Pine Golf Course Superintendents Association Board of Directors three times since the 1980s, and currently serves as President.
To this applause, Woodward replied, “I was extremely humbled and caught a little off guard to be selected for this honour. By far the most rewarding part of my golf career has been all the inspiring people I have met and worked with. They are the true foundation of the golf industry.
When he took over as director of golf operations for the city of San Diego in 2005, he recalls, it was a daunting but exhilarating task to upgrade Torrey Pines and two other city courses.
“We had a ton of political challenges, we had financial challenges,” Woodward said. “I had to write a business plan which was very controversial. But it ended up being very, very successful in bringing money to the city of San Diego.
“So I hosted three Buick Invitationals, three World Junior Championships and the US Open (in 2008) when I was there, but we had a long way to go. It took us three years and half to keep this golf course in world class condition.
As difficult as this mission was – “because it was on a global stage” – the next one was not easy.
He became CEO of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, the official group of golf course superintendents and directors of agronomy with 19,000 members from 22 countries and a budget of approximately $20 million.
He was at the helm when the Great Recession hit and golf course revenues plummeted, as did association revenues.
“I had to lay off 34 employees to
balance the budget. We had a lot of financial difficulties,” Woodward explained. “So it was a difficult time in a different way because I was dealing with the management of the association and not the management of the golf courses.
Of course, Woodward has played courses all over the world, further honing his eye on what works and what creates superior bonds.
“I played in the United States, obviously. Canada, I played there. I played in Malaysia, I played in China. I played in Europe,” he said, fondly recalling the time he played at St. Andrew’s Golf Course in Scotland, where the game was invented, with his father and son.
“It was really a treat because that’s where golf was born years ago and it’s a great golf course,” he said. “It’s a different golf course than what we have here in the United States, but it’s kind of on your to-do list that you want to play golf courses like that. But having my father and my son with me made it really special.
He admitted that when he plays he sees a course in a somewhat different light than even an avid player, because “we understand what guys go through to maintain a particular golf course and we appreciate the effort he makes.”
“Every golf course is different from the other. No two are alike and that’s kind of how we look at it.
Woodward said he had ‘reviewed’ the Ahwatukee Lakes – but only as a result of pass by several times.
And amid all the pessimism about the sport’s future, Woodward says the best thing to happen to golf in the last 10 years has been COVID-19 – a claim that many golf course owners, including owner of Lakes Wilson Gee, approve.
“In the 80s and 90s,” Woodward explained, “we were opening about 400 golf courses every year – so more than one golf course a day. Now that trend changed when the economy took a turn for the worse and the golf courses started to close, and they were approaching about 150 or 160 a year across the United States.
“So the best thing that’s happened to golf lately, believe it or not, was the pandemic because there was nothing else for golfers to do. They couldn’t go to the movies at Originally they couldn’t go to bars and restaurants and all that, but they could play golf courses because golf was considered an essential activity.
“All the golf courses I have spoken to, rounds have increased by 15%, 20% up to 30% or 40% over the previous year… But the question is: is this sustainable? How long will this last? I don’t think the numbers will go back down to pre-pandemic numbers because many people were exposed to golf during the pandemic who might not have been exposed to it otherwise.
“So I think it was all good for golf. And that’s given golf a boost and everybody’s making a lot of money and there’s a lot of rounds and all the golf courses are busy right now.