charles schwab

At media day for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club, we met Steve Alker, the 2022 Champions Cup Winner who went on to win this season’s ending tournament and was runner up for the Cup.

Steve Alker at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship

Steve makes you feel like fast friends after a short conversation.

The kiwi has made Arizona home with his wife and daughter but when asked about New Zealand, he mentioned missing meat pies, the NZ beer and candy, quipping they have better cows to produce it. Most travelers have New Zealand somewhere on their wish list, albeit a long flight.

Speaking of long flights, South Africa’s Ernie Els was leading the first round of the Charles Schwab Cup, then chased after Steve to the final day, tying for second place.

When he said hello by the chipping green, we expressed our love for his winery in Stellenbosch. “Oh good, thank you.”

South Africa is a destination that will steal your heart for the scenery, cuisine, and safaris. The safe and fun way to go is with Pro Golf Safaris.


Also tied for second place and hoping for a chance at a playoff with Steve and Ernie before Steve clinched the win, was Stephen Ames. We had an opportunity to work with Stephen a few years back. Perhaps his most famous win was at The Players, TPC Sawgrass. Born in Trinidad, he “loves the quaintness of St. Augustine.” He says of the beaches there, you don’t feel like you’re in Florida, more in the Caribbean islands. The First coast of Florida is a quick flight away.

Stephen now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia where golf from Bear Mountain in Victoria through the Canadian Rockies is breathtaking. Fairmont’s trio of Whistler, Banff, and Jasper (celebrating its centennial in ’24) are exceptional luxury stay and play spots.

Ireland’s Darren Clarke, former Ryder Cup Captain, and Open Champ was struggling for contention at the park style Phoenix Country Club. Ireland is any golfer’s home away from home as the Irish are welcoming with their Guinness, whiskey, and golf hospitality. Plus, the Wild Atlantic Way has knockout scenery.

darren clarkeDarren also lives in the Bahamas and has the prettiest bag on tour, adorned with the colorful Abaco parrot. We ran into him heading from the tropical links course to the white sandy beach when visiting The Abaco Club on Winding Bay. He shared his love of fishing, perhaps greater than golf. We understand because Wahoo, we caught two when fishing with Captain Mark in Los Abacos.

jimenezMore European representation at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, included Miguel Jimenez, with his signature ponytail and perpetual stogie smoking. Known on the circuit as the Mechanic, he hails from Malaga Spain, home to Valderrama.

When the Spaniard was rehabbing a leg injury, he chose Casa de Campo’s Teeth of the dog for his debut round. He just came off the course when we were about to tee off. Surely, he enjoys their freshly rolled Dominican cigars.

What we love about Casa de Campo is receiving a golf cart at check in as a magic carpet ride to explore the kingdom of Pete Dye golf designs, the beach, the Italian village replica of El Chavon and all the communities within the gated, all-inclusive paradise.

Another European player, Alex Ćejka, was born in Czechoslovakia where Prague has photo ops at every turn with medieval, baroque, and renaissance architecture in churches and theaters where Mozart played.

Golf at Kaskáda in BRNO winds through hills with whimsical sculptures.

kaskada golf at the Charles Schwab Cup ChampionshipCejka and his dad fled to Germany as refuges when he was nine years old. He was inspired by fellow German Pro, Bernard Langer, six-time winner of the Charles Schwab Cup. We ventured to Munich for the Golf Europe show when we launched the Butthead Covers company and partook of Oktoberfest but never golfed there. Bernard says, “Well, you should.” Germans require a license to arrange tee times but for visitors, a handicap card should suffice.

While watching South Korean Charlie Wi on the Phoenix Country Club driving range, he remembered the day Danny caddied for Rickie Fowler in his Notah Begay tournament mixed group at Turning Stone Resort in Oneida, New York. “Yes, that was 2012” – good memory. The closest we’ve come to South Korean golf is playing with a young Korean couple at Ryder Cup venue, Marco di Simone in Rome. We learned how to say, “I’m hitting now”, phonetically, “Atakáyo”.

Also appearing at the Phoenix Country Club for the Charles Schwab Cup were the Dewars’ gals, on tour with their little custom pickup, as seen at the US Open, sharing samples of 12 yr. old Dewars scotch which elicits memories of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Scotland was our first travel story after representing the US in the International Pairs competition in St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf. A return country tour is a must since a great grandfather to the 7th was in the battle of Dunbar and sent to New England as an indentured servant.

oasis at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship

In keeping with the travel theme at Charles Schwab Cup, Holland America premiered sponsorship of the Oasis, open for ticket purchase by the public to eat, drink and be merry while watching the pros play on 14, 15, 17 and 18. Patrons had fun with the phrase, “meet me at the oasis,” and maybe left with a plan for their next Alaskan Wildlife Cruise.

The Charles Schwab Cup Championship was a smashing success with ideal weather, and we hope to catch up again with the Champions when they return to Tucson in March for the Cologuard Classic by Exact Sciences at their new home La Paloma Country Club, part of the Westin La Paloma Resort, managed by Troon Privé, following years of playing at Omni Tucson National Resort.

But before then, the desert presents the Greatest and Greenest Show on Grass, the most famous PGA tournament, the WM Phoenix Open. Who will play this year? Perhaps Camillo Villegas, fresh off his heavenly win? The Columbian is nicknamed Spiderman for his method of green reading. We met his brother years back, when playing in Bogota, a city rich in history with a year-round moderate climate. La Cima is the second highest course in the world while Ron Garl’s Club Guaymaral plays like tropical links. Wake up and smell the coffee and taste over 100 exotic fruits.

We’re very grateful for our travel and memories while residing in one of the best golf states with so many pro stops. Like Florida, Arizona is home to many American and international golf pros, so you never know who you might see where.

While the Charles Schwab Cup host, Phoenix Country Club is private, the Biltmore Golf Club nearby has the public Links Course and the Estates Course, newly remodeled by another Champions Pro and Arizona Golf Hall of Famer, Tom Lehman. Mountains and downtown views frame the remodeled fairways, greens, and white fluffy sand bunkers.

biltmore estates

In Scottsdale you might play the WM Phoenix Open’s TPC Stadium Course, imagining the party coliseum around the 16th hole or its sister Champions Course. Or stay and play two true desert courses at We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort, or The Boulders Resort, or Troon North.

Over 200 courses avail in the Valley of the Sun with major sports and entertainment venues, wellness options and modern wild west adventures. And Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport just topped the Wall Street Journal’s annual ranking of the best airports in the U.S. for 2023.