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All The Many Reasons to Love Tucson

Young coyotes were running routes in the bright morning, "gamboling" might be the word, around my new white ball. The sprinklers had been shut down for only a half hour. There we were, creatures on the fairway, at play.

The coyotes ghosted off -- as I ambled toward my ball -- into a draw where the prickly pear were thick with blossoms the color of tea roses. This was on the second hole at Starr Pass Golf Club, in the Sonoran hills overlooking downtown Tucson. Remember when Phil Mickelson won the Tucson Open as an undergraduate at Arizona State?It happened at Starr Pass.

After just breathing for a slow moment, I struck (toward a sucker pin) one of those occasional shots.

It looked to be a perfect eight-iron, which lifted and hung and then fell soundlessly, irrevocably, into a back bunker.

Golf is driven by simple pleasures. That eight-iron, for a suspended moment, seemed to be absolutely pure. Then the air went out of another balloon. Golf is ultimately civilizing.

In my bunker, my ball in a coyote track, I had to grin and play the world as I found it. A sweet bogey. That's what I told myself as I walked off the green. And I believed it. As if "sweet" and "bogey" ever belonged in the same sentence.

The Sonoran country of southern Arizona is vast and raw -- creosote playas broken by islands of high, stony mountains. Ascending into those mountains involves working up through life zone after life zone. Near the top you find yellow-pine forests like those in the northern Rockies. People ski on Mount Lemmon, above Tucson, only a few miles from others who are rubbing on sunblock before testing their touch on greens that run around ten on the stimpmeter.

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