The Waste Management Phoenix Open tournament took place at TPC Scottsdale over the weekend, widely regarded as one of the largest and most anticipated annual sporting events held in the Valley.
With that, and further incited by the excitement surrounding the Coyotes' tournament representation with PGA Tour golfer Hudson Swafford, who wore sponsored team branding throughout the competition, players' attention turned to the sport itself.
Swafford, who was in the thick of the competition throughout the tournament and played in the final threesome on Sunday, was seen sporting anOliver Ekman-Larssonkachina jersey as he putted for par on the renowned hole 16. Swafford finished the tournament tied for ninth place (-11).
Golf has been commonly known to be a popular sport among hockey players, whether it be for the similarities between the muscle groups and body movement necessary for shooting a puck and swinging a club.
Or, as Jakob Chychrun said, "It's just similar to a slap shot, you know?"
"It seems like most hockey players are pretty decent at golf," saidChristian Dvorak. "I don't know why exactly, but it seems like it. It's hard to find too many bad golfers that play hockey."
Chychrun and Dvorak are among a group of Coyotes players that are respectfully known to be able to hold their own on the course.
There's a quiet competitiveness to it all.
Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz's games have been touted to be the best in the room by teammates, as well asBrad Richardson's.
"I played golf at a young age with my dad on the weekends, and whenever I wasn't working on hockey, I was at the golf course with my him," Keller said, describing where and when his love for the sport began. "I just love the game so much; it's such a fun relaxing sport and I love watching the PGA tour."
Richardson, too, started swinging the clubs as a kid.
"I started early," he said. "Me and my brother would go down to a course and ride our bikes every day, we'd take lessons in the morning and then play like 36 holes a day, that was our summer, we were pretty fortunate to get to do that as young kids."
Though his game has been highly acclaimed, Richardson says he says he's got some rust to knock off, recounting that he's only played once in the last year.
And that may have something to do with playing such a demanding, grueling 82-game schedule, it's tough for players to find much time, if any, to get on the course during the season. More often than not, it serves as an offseason activity, one that ensues the players' daily workout routines.
"The biggest thing is just hanging out with friends and being a little competitive at the same time, getting some games going out there and enjoying the offseason," Schmaltz said. "Whether you're on vacation with some buddies or hitting the course after the gym, it's just a great way to spend time and have a little fun while you're doing it."
Chychrun, who grew up in Florida, began playing golf with his father at a young age - much like Keller.
"I love golf, I've played it forever," he said. "My dad would just take me to the range and let me whack balls around for hours and I love it, so yeah, I've been playing ever since I was a kid."
Keller and Richardson are scratch golfers, meaning they don't need to play with a handicap on any rated golf course. Schmaltz is right behind, along with Chychrun and Dvorak.
"I think it's just relaxing to play when you have some time off, clearing your mind," Keller added. "Whether it be with your buddies or your family, it's just an awesome time. I'm usually pretty competitive with it, but I always have a great time."
The players, though, are hoping that hockey requires their time and attention through the spring and into the summer.