There hasn’t been a back-to-back winner in the Arizona Open since the legendary Johnny Bulla accomplished the feat in 1959. In order for defending champion Charlie Beljan to pull off the repeat, he will need to emerge victorious against one of the strongest fields ever to tee it up in the state championship when the 77th edition of the Arizona Open presented by PING gets underway on Monday, Aug. 3rd at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in Gold Canyon, Arizona.
“The depth of the field at the Arizona Open just keeps getting deeper and deeper,” said Beljan. “When I first started playing the tournament you could pick the players that would finish top ten. Now you have guys that are playing their first professional event finishing at the top of the leaderboard, amateurs that have amazing talent finishing second. It has become a very prestigious trophy to have on the mantle.”
Beljan, 35, from Mesa, Ariz., captured the title last year after posting rounds of 69-66-65–200 (-16). His margin of victory was one stroke over Zach Smith, who was playing in his first tournament as a professional, and two over amateur, and former University of Illinois standout, Michael Feagles. Beljan’s quest for a repeat begins on Monday, Aug. 3rd at 7:50 a.m. off the 10th tee. He is currently in the field at the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship at Tahoe Mountain Club in Truckee, Calif.
Smith, 24, from Mesa, returns to the Arizona Open after earning his first win as a professional this past May in the Scottsdale AZ Open. His 62 in the final round propelled him to the top of the leaderboard, where he finished with a 54-hole total of 192, good for a three-shot victory and the $20,000 first place check.
PGA Professional Jesse Mueller enters the Open after winning the 63rd Southwest PGA Championship last month at SouthShore Country Club in Henderson, Nev. Mueller, 37, PGA Director of Golf at Grand Canyon University Golf Course, won the title after finishing with a 54-hole total of 203 (-10), one stroke better than runner-up Chris Dompier, the PGA Head Golf Professional at Skyline C.C. in Tucson, Ariz.
Also in the field is PGA Professional Dennis Downs, the current leader in the Southwest PGA Player of the Year points race. Downs, 37, PGA Director of Instruction at Eagle’s Nest at Pebble Creek in Goodyear, Ariz., won the first two Southwest PGA PING Player Series events and finished tied for fourth in the Southwest PGA Championship.
The 2020 starting field contains 58 amateurs and six past champions that include: Beljan, Jim Carter (1989, 1996), Brian Cooper (2016), Craig Hocknull (2013), R.J. Wood (2015), and Jake Younan (2018).
Notable competitors include current and former PGA Tour/Champions Tour members: Beljan, Carter, and Cooper; PGA Professionals Michael Block (2014 National PGA Professional champion), Downs, Dompier, Michael Hopper, Mark Leibfried, Mueller and Matt VanCleave; amateurs Jake Chanen, Leon D’Souza, J.J. Gresco, Mitchell Holmes, brothers Canon and Trevor Olkowski and Adam Walicki; and non-PGA professionals Mike McGilton, brothers Jeremy and Yannik Paul, Carson Roberts, Zach Smith, Jino Sohn, Sam Triplett, and Chad Wilcox.
Competing in his first Arizona Open, 15-year-old amateur Johnnie Clark from Mesa, qualified for the Championship at McCormick Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale, where he carded a 1-under-par 71 and finished tied for eighth. He is the youngest competitor in the field and is amongst the youngest to ever compete in the Championship.
The first and second rounds
will be held Monday and Tuesday, August 3 and 4, respectively, at 7:00
a.m. off Nos. 1 and 10. Following 36 holes of play, the field will be
cut to the low 50 scorers plus ties for the final round on Wednesday,
Long-time Southwest PGA partner PING is the presenting sponsor of the 77th Arizona Open Championship. Their support helped raise this year’s purse to the highest level since 2008