May 5 marks the final day to play at ASU Karsten Golf Course before permanently closing after 30 years of public golf as well as serving as the home course for Arizona State University’s golf teams since opening in September 1989. The parcel of land where the Pete Dye-designed golf course currently sits is scheduled for future development, athletic fields and other university facilities.
“ASU Karsten was built in an era when high-end daily fee golf in the Valley really took off,” said Mike Conner, original general manager of the golf course and vice president of OB Sports, the facility’s management firm. “The golf course not only hosted ASU’s golf teams and phoenix-area residents, it also hosted hundreds of thousands of winter visitors looking for a quality golf experience.”
Anticipating the closure, the ASU golf teams already made the move to nearby Papago Golf Course where a unique public/private partnership between the City of Phoenix, Arizona State University and the Arizona Golf Community Foundation significantly upgraded the golf facility. Here, the golf teams will play and compete on the classic golf course as well as practice at the newly christened Thunderbirds Golf Complex, a golf training facility designed by Phil Mickelson, former Sun Devil standout and 44-time winner on tour.
“Decades ago, the golf community came together to create ASU Karsten in a very unique way,” said Conner. “We’d like to say ‘thank you’ to that community and honor their efforts in the time we have left by encouraging golfers to get out there to play the golf course one more time.”
The concept for the on-campus golf course was originally conceived in the 1970s by then Athletic Director Fred Miller who convinced the Sun Angel Foundation to spearhead construction. Along the way, the golf course, clubhouse and team facilities received collaborative financial support from a host of individuals and organizations including Louise and Karsten Solheim, Arizona Public Service, the Tanner Companies, Westcor, Bob and Karen Hobbs, The Thunderbirds, Jones Studios, Homes & Sons, G.M. “Solly” Sollenberger and the Collegiate Golf Foundation.
The 1989 opening soon sparked the “Decade of the Devils,” a 10-year stretch of success in the ‘90s when the men’s and women’s teams combined for eight NCAA Golf Championships – six women’s (’90, ’93, ’94, ’95, ’97, ’98), and two men’s (’90, ‘96). During that time, Phil Mickelson posted two NCAA Men’s Golf Individual Championships (1990 and 1992), and Todd Demsey followed suit in 1993. On the women’s side, Emilee Klein won the NCAA individual title in 1994. Kristel Mourgue d’Algue took individual honors in 1995, and Grace Park did the same in 1999.
In 2003 Alejandro Canizares added one more NCAA Men’s Golf Individual Championship. Azahara Munoz won the NCAA Women’s Golf Individual Championship in 2008, and a year later, the women earned another team championship. More recently, 2017, Monica Vaughn led the women’s team to a record eighth NCAA Women’s Golf Championship en route to her individual title that same year. All told while playing out of ASU Karsten, the women have notched five individual titles and eight team titles, and the men posted four individual titles and two team titles.
“At the time, the golf course and those who made it happen, really set the standard for the type of collegiate golf facilities needed to recruit and compete for championships,” said director of golf, Derek Crawford. “Needless to say, it was a huge success. And it wasn’t just collegiate players who enjoyed the golf course. I would estimate it logged more than one million rounds of public golf during the 30-year span.”
In 1992 ASU Karsten Golf Course hosted both the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship and the Pac-12 Women’s Golf Championships, which it also went on to host two more times in 2001 and 2011. The Pac-12 Men’s Golf Championships were held at ASU Karsten three times (1990, 2000 and 2010). Other notable tournaments include the PING/ASU Women’s Invitational, Arizona State Thunderbirds Collegiate Invitational, PING Phoenix Junior at ASU Karsten, U.S. Open Qualifying and many other high-profile competitive championships.