Dirt course sees more golfers at 4th annual tourney
By Larissa L. Jimmy
STEAMBOAT, Ariz., August 1, 2013
(Times Photo – Larissa L. Jimmy)
T he golf course that Freddie Yazzie, Joseph Benally and Donald Benally built and designed is slowly becoming everything that they had envisioned years ago.
More golfers participated in the 4th annual 2-man team golf tournament, held July 27 at the Wagon Trail to Lonesome Pine Golf Course near Steamboat.
"It's a field of dreams," said Yazzie in describing the nine-hole dirt golf course, handmade by the trio of cousins.
As a bus driver for the Ganado Unified School District, Yazzie said he began taking an interest in the sport when he used to take high school students on golfing trips in either Holbrook or in Gallup.
The vision was to have more golfers who are passionate about the sport come to the tournament not only compete, but to socialize with family and friends.
The golf course actually begins behind a hillside near Jor's house at a sheep corral, where kids in the area would come and play golf, according to Donald; this is where the idea to begin making a golf course sprung.
"They would play with just one hole, from sun up to sun down. It really surprised me," said Donald.
When Donald saw the interest that the kids were taking toward the sport, he began progressing on the idea to start building a golf course near his house with the help of his brother and his cousin.
Since then the three have been constructing the golf course little by little.
Today the trio's hard work is paying off as 40 teams came to experience the reservation's only – if not, very few – dirt golf courses.
This year, golfers came from as far away as the Phoenix area and the Tuba City, Ariz. area.
For Phillip Jake, from Chinle, who has been golfing for about 2 years, he simply wondered how he would do on the course. So he and his cousin, Thomas Tsinniginnie, decided to compete.
And in place of rolling his of green grass, the Wagon Trail to Lonesome Pine Golf Course had rolling hills of sagebrush, sand and cedar trees creating a great challenge for some golfers.
"This is our first time coming out here, " said Shon Yellowhair, who teamed up with Walt Phillips and both from Snowflake, Ariz. "I first heard about this tournament in the newspaper when they started building this course and it looks great."
"This place is a reservation golf course, there's no green and everything is dirt," said A.J. Jefferson from Gallup, who has been golfing for about 8 years.
Because the dirt on the golf course has been compacted down by continuous use of golfers, it has created an uneven pathway for the golf ball to reach the hole.
"When you putt, it can go either way, left or right," said Jefferson. "It's really challenging out here. If you're good, you're not good out here because of the condition of the golf course."
Jefferson teamed up with his friend Emmett Francis from Window Rock, Ariz., for the tournament.
"You put your whole thought into the small ball," added Jefferson. "If you have a bad day at the office, you can come here to relieve yourself because you do a lot of walking and thinking. And once you make your nine-rounds you feel like you accomplished something."
Of the 40 teams, Ambrose Ben and Maruis Ben from Low Mountain, Ariz. placed first. Second place went to Lyle Thompson and Atlee Denny from Window Rock. Third place went to Emmett Francis and A.J. Jefferson. Dot Upshaw Chee and her son Jerry Nez Jr. placed fourth.
The closest-to-the-pin award went to Brian Kensley and his team partner Jerry Macabe. The longest-drive award went to Jerry Nez Jr. (288 yards), best dressed went to Reginald Tsosie, furthest destination went to Durand King (who traveled from Glendale, Ariz.), youngest player went to 17-year-old Chad Yazzie, and oldest player went to Wallace Hanley, 75.
"This is great. This was our dream. If you guys are ever drive by here and want to stop by, you are welcome to play the course and you don't have to pay nothing," said Yazzie.