A lot has happened to Cibola grad Gabe Plaza since he won last year's Yuma City Men's Golf Championship, his second in a row and third overall.
The biggest change for Plaza going into this year's title defense doesn't have as much to do with his golf game as it does his home life.
“My wife just had a baby and I haven't been playing much,” Plaza said. “It's a big difference because I haven't prepared myself like every other year when I've won it. Just responsibilities come first, I'm just going with the flow. I'm playing OK, but hopefully it's good enough to win.”
Plaza, who now works at Desert Hills, defeated Kyle Curtis by one stroke to clinch last year's championship.
“It's a real honor to actually play in your soil, your home in a way,” Plaza said. “The golf course is in really good shape. We've worked really hard to get it the way it is.”
Although Plaza has won the tournament the last two years, Bill Bort has a streak that won't be broken anytime soon.
This will be Bort's 41st tournament, dating back to its inception in 1973. He qualified for the championship flight 32 years in a row and won the tournament once, but isn't sure what year it happened.
“I don't know, 1983?” he asked himself, laughing. “When you get as old as I am, your memory kind of sucks.”
Golfers tee off at 7 a.m. Saturday morning at Desert Hills golf course. After the first two days the participants will be re-paired according to their gross scores, then will play Monday for their respective flights. The championship flight will play an additional round in the afternoon for a total of 36 holes to determine the winner.
“God, I'd love to make the championship flight,” Bort said. “But they'd have to carry me around in a wheelbarrow.”
This year's tournament is new Desert Hills operational manager Bruce Brown's first Yuma City Championship, but certainly not his first tournament. Brown was involved in five LPGA events at the Arizona Biltmore, volunteered at several events in the southwest section of the PGA tour and helped run endless junior golf tournaments his son participated in.
Days before the tournament, Brown's already putting his stamp on the weekend.
“A lot of times the golfers leave the 18th green and you lose them in the parking lot and you don't know where they are for a half hour,” Brown said with a laugh. “Or they're in the bar, drowning their sorrows with a beer. So we'll have the scorer's tent set up on the 18th so they can get all their paperwork done and they can take off from here.”
Bort is looking forward to Memorial Day Weekend for the same reasons he does every year.
“You see a lot of people that you don't see for years,” Bort said. “Some of the kids that I helped teach in junior class are now wonderful golfers and you get a chance to play with those guys. Of course I'm so much older than everybody else, but it's just a lot of fun.”