By Ryan Finley
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
David Mehl’s vision of Dove Mountain as an upscale golf community began in 1983 when he purchased 1,300 acres of desert land from local homesteader Eugene “Cush” Cayton.
The results, 26 years later, are staggering.
The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship takes up residence at the new Jack Nicklaus-designed Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain beginning this week. The adjacent Ritz-Carlton resort will open in October. In the next decade, Ritz-Carlton officials hope to sell 400 home sites near the sprawling new course.
The entire project can be traced to Mehl, 57, the president and owner of Cottonwood Properties and one of Tucson’s top developers. The Star talked to Mehl about his project — and Tucson’s newest sports landmark:
Q: You were instrumental in the planning and execution of The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, but you’re also a golfer. What’s the course like to play?
A: It’s gorgeous, but it’s also very strategic. I’m an average golfer, but I have a blast playing the course. The 14th to the 17th holes on the tournament course is just a spectacular area. It plays up into its own small canyon that tucks into the Tortolita Mountains. It’s a phenomenal area. … The Ritz-Carlton resort community is about 850 acres — in Tucson terms, it’s bigger than all of La Paloma. It’ll ultimately have more than 400 homes and 36 holes of Jack Nicklaus golf.
Q: What was his vision for the new course?
A: He wanted to design a course that was very playable and enjoyable for the hotel guests and yet challenging for the top 64 golfers in the world. It’s not easy to combine both those features. He positioned bunkers in the fairway to give a real strategic advantage to those pros who can hit their drives in the right places.
Q: That seems really hard, like building a baseball stadium that will suit the weekend player and someone like Barry Bonds.
A: In one sense, what we’re doing is essentially building two walls — one for Barry to hit over and one for a normal person to hit over. If you play the top tees, like a pro, and if you can’t hit your driver 320 yards with accuracy in the air, you’re not going to hit in the best place strategically.
Q: How did the Ritz-Carlton become home to Match Play?
A: I’m friends with quite a number of the people involved in the Conquistadores, and I chatted with them about moving the Tucson Open to the course. When the Conquistadores ended up in discussions with the PGA to move Match Play, they brought me into it quite early. We realized attracting the PGA and Accenture as a sponsor, having a higher-quality venue, was a big part of that. The combination of the golf course and the Ritz-Carlton hotel was very important to both the PGA and Accenture.
Q: The Ritz-Carlton resort will be open in time for next year’s Match Play. How much will that improve the experience?
A: The PGA pros will certainly enjoy staying that close to the golf, as well as the top Accenture guests. I think for both those groups, which are key groups having a positive experience, it will definitely be big.
Q: And for the fans?
A: It will be a lot easier to see golf, because The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club is designed specifically for Match Play. From any one point, you can walk 100 yards in either direction and watch three to four golf holes.