Bye-Bye Birdie?

Written by Paola Garcia Category: History Issue: September 2017
Group Free
A young Phil Mickelson golfs at ASU’s Karsten Golf Course. Photo courtesy of ASU.

Arizona State University’s Karsten Golf Course is truly a golfer’s paradise: mesmerizing sunsets melting over the surrounding trees, a lake glistening beyond the holes, acres of freshly cut grass rippling in the breeze, wafting its comforting scent upward. It’s difficult to imagine such an idyll may be in danger of closure. 

The course opened on September 15, 1989. It was the pet project of ASU athletic director Fred Miller, who convinced the Sun Angel Foundation, a group of donors dedicated to raising money for ASU athletics, to bring his vision to life. Instead of using university funds or tax dollars, the founders solicited donations from private investors and philanthropists. Golf legend Karsten Solheim, who created PING golf clubs, was the largest cash contributor. He and his wife, Louise, donated $2 million to jump-start construction and, thus, the course was named in his honor. 

Since opening day, Karsten has hosted some of the top players in golf. Phil Mickelson, Billy Mayfair, Grace Park, Azahara Muñoz and more have all spent some time on Karsten’s fairways. ASU’s women’s golf team has won plenty of championships there over the years. PHOENIX magazine’s own former editor-in-chief Keridwen Cornelius, who wrote this month’s history piece on page 44 and Grazing Arizona on page 120, was a Sun Devil golf champ in 1997. 

In recent months, rumors have stirred about the course closing. While many insiders believe the demise of Karsten is imminent and ASU has reportedly entertained numerous development deals, for the time being it will remain the home of ASU Golf – at least until the fall of 2018, when the ASU Golf facility currently under construction at Papago Golf Course is scheduled to be completed.

“There are no immediate plans or dates to close Karsten,” OB Sports Senior Vice President Mike Conner says. Karsten Golf Course will continue to welcome golfers with happy open greens. 

 — Paola Garcia


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