Havocs’ Phoenix Open visit isn’t par for the course
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
“What the heck is THIS?” the marshal on the third hole at TPC Scottsdale said Friday morning as the merry band of Havocs surged toward him.
The purple contingent from Grand Canyon University’s getting-more-famous-by-the-minute student cheer section was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open to root for Jesse Mueller, PGA Director of Golf at GCU Golf Course, a volunteer assistant for the men’s golf team and a first-time participant in the tournament.
It became comical as spectator after spectator couldn’t help but notice. They would acknowledge the University’s reputation in Phoenix and beyond “(GCU! You guys rock!”). They would wonder why the Havocs were wearing foam hats shaped like Lopes, handed out at a basketball game last week. But, invariably, they would make it clear that they know who coaches the men’s basketball team.
“Did you bring Dan Majerle with you?” they often would ask.
“I love getting those questions,” said Jake Bradshaw, who as the Havocs’ Vice President of Game Day helped organize getting more than 30 of them over to Scottsdale and onto the golf course. “We feel like a walking advertisement for our games.”
But how they could not get noticed? “I mean, look at my head,” said Brady Ostendorf, the Havocs’ Director of Programming, as he pointed to his Lope hat.
He could have pointed to his purple pants, for that matter. It was a nice, golf-oriented change of pace from the purple shorts, GCU jersey and about a half-can of face paint he wears at games, which he calls his “work attire.”
But that’s the thing about the Havocs: They get it. They knew that they couldn’t treat a golf tournament like a basketball game even though the Phoenix Open, dubbed the “Greatest Show on Grass,” is also by far the loudest event the pros play. That’s why they came up with doing a silent-but-effective Lopes Up for Mueller’s shots.
“We’re not big golfers, but we want to respect the golf etiquette,” Bradshaw said.
Looking and acting the part also is important to Bill Babyar, who was rocking a purple blazer – one of 17 sportcoats he rotates for GCU games. Talk about a sacrifice.
“For the record, this is very hot,” he said as the temperature sprinted toward 80 on this windless, clear day.
But the Havocs also brought their quirky sense of humor. Coming out to the event to support Mueller was the idea of their president, Karsten Kem, and he showed up with a golf glove sticking out of his back pocket. “Just in case. You never know,” he said, laughing – as if one of the pros might turn to him to hit a shot or two.
They still were out there shouting “G-C-U! G-C-U!” as Mueller walked up to the green on the 18th hole, ready to put the finishing touches on a round of 76. They wouldn’t leave a basketball game early, and this was no different.
“It was awesome,” Mueller said. “I don’t know if you expect anything less from GCU. They travel so well and they support their own no matter who it is – athletics, debates, anything.”
The support goes both ways. Among the dozens of GCU administrators and employees on hand was Alan Quezada, a freshman who plays on the golf team at Trevor G. Browne High School in west Phoenix.
Quezada grew up at Maryvale Golf Club before GCU revamped and rejuvenated the municipal course into a championship layout, and when it reopened two years ago he again was a fixture. Mueller took him under his wing and, in return for Quezada’s volunteer help with various chores around the course, mentors him and gives him playing time.
“He’s a great guy,” Quezada said. “He helps me a lot.”
He has helped him so much, Quezada made it all the way to the Arizona state high school tournament this year. He showed his gratitude by making it all the way to TPC Scottsdale – by taking a two-hour bus ride on both Thursday and Friday.
“Whatever it takes to come see Jesse,” he said.
Said Mueller, “He’s pretty much like family. He’s always there playing and practicing. Any of the juniors out at the golf course, I try to build them up whenever I can.”
Mueller hopes to qualify for the Phoenix Open again next year and give Quezada another chance to watch him. Even though he missed the 36-hole cut in his first shot at the tournament, he still came away from it with a good feeling.
“It was fun,” he said. “Growing up in Phoenix and being able to play out here, I had a great time. Unfortunately, I played terribly, but if I’m fortunate enough to play in it again, I’ll be able to handle the atmosphere and everything a little better. But it was a good learning experience, and hopefully I can get into a couple more down the line.”
Just the very sight of him being out there meant a lot to his family, especially his father – GCU President Brian Mueller.
“It was great to be out here,” he said. “It was great to see so many people that we’ve seen over the years come out to support him. It was great that the Havocs came out to support him – they were fantastic.
“He’s just a really well-liked guy in the golf world in Arizona. So even though he didn’t play well, it was gratifying to see so many people happy to support him. Now that he’s been out there once, who knows? Maybe he gets in again.”
And if he does, you can bet the Havocs will be out there again, too.
“They came out and they stayed the whole time,” Brian Mueller said. “They stayed all 18 holes. Even though he wasn’t playing great and he wasn’t on the leaderboard or anything like that, they still supported him and they still identified with him.”
That’s what the heck this is.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.