ECGC parking lot

There are plenty of cars in the parking lot at the Emerald Canyon Golf Course on Saturday, May 2. Course Director Steve Benton said they had been averaging more than 200 players a day on weekends with the courses in California being closed.

There was a lot of criticism on social media over holding the Parker Open golf tournament April 24-26 at the Emerald Canyon Golf Club north of Parker. However, Course Director Steve Benton said they had fewer people there for that tournament than they had been having on weekends before the tournament.

Benton said 120 players were at the course for the three-day tournament, and it was the same people every day. He said they’d been averaging more than 200 players per day on weekends leading up to the tournament. If they had 200 players per day on the three days of a weekend, and they were all different players, that comes to 600 people.

“If anything, the tournament reduced the number of players coming out,” Benton said.

Benton said the reason the number of players was so high on weekends was because the courses in California were closed, and Emerald Canyon is one of the closest courses to the California-Arizona state line.

Another explanation for the increase in numbers is the number of Californians who have vacation homes here, Benton said.

“This has always been a hot spot for Californians,” he said.

Benton noted the course was open because Gov. Doug Ducey had declared golf courses to be essential.

With some courses in California re-opening, Benton said the numbers on weekends at Emerald Canyon are going down.

The course has been doing what it can to meet the guidelines set by Gov. Ducey’s Executive Orders and the Centers for Disease Control. Food and drinks from the snack bar are for take-out only. The golf carts are all sanitized before they go out. Players are asked not to remove the pin flags on the holes. There are many other things they are doing as well.

“We’ve done a lot of things to keep people safe,” Benton said. He added that, given how large the course it, it’s easy to practice social distancing.

The 2020 Parker Open was won by Alex Cejka. He staged a remarkable come-from-behind rally on the last six holes. He was down by six strokes when he birdied (one under par), shot a hole-in-one on the Par 3 14th hole, birdied on 15th hole, and shot an eagle (two under par) on the Par 4 16th hole. Tied for the lead after the 18th hole, he won in a sudden-death playoff and took home $7,000 in prize money.

Cejka is a PGA veteran who has won $12 million in his career. He praised Emerald Canyon as a challenging and beautiful course.

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