Celebrating 80 Years of Golf and Giving January 26th through February 1st

Information Courtesy of: Rob Myer

The Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO), affectionately known as the “Greatest and Greenest Show on Grass” is like no other PGA tournament event and is hand’s down one of the tour’s most popular and successful events judging by attendance, tournament earnings and philanthropy generated by The Thunderbirds  to local charities as evident from the 2014 event results.  The WMPO popularity and growth will continue in 2015 and beyond with the recent announcement by Waste Management and the tournament host The Thunderbirds that Waste Management has agreed to a 10-year sponsorship extension that will commence at the end of the 2015 WMPO.

The results of 2014’s Greatest & Greenest Show on Grass, alone, put an exclamation point on the subject.  The Thunderbirds announced that they will distribute $7,061,282 to local charities through proceeds from the 2014 event.  And it would seem that the give-o-meter is pegged once again to pre-recession levels.  The latest announcement reflects the third-highest charitable donation in a single year in tournament history and is the highest since the 2008 ($8.8 million) and 2007 ($7.8 million) tournaments.

The $7 million for charity is a direct result of record-breaking crowds attending the 2014 tournament. An incredible 189,000-plus fans attended the third round and transformed TPC Scottsdale into Arizona’s 8th most populated “city” with 28,000 more people than the City of Tempe.  In total, just over 563,000 fans attended the 7-day event – a new PGA TOUR and tournament record.

“Thanks to unbelievable community and corporate support of our great event, we’re able to help thousands of children and families in need,” said Thunderbirds Big Chief Tom King. “We are very grateful to our title sponsor Waste Management, our many other corporate partners, and for the support of our golf fans, volunteers and the professional golfers that play in our event.”

Despite much to appreciate, there’s no chest pounding going on with The Thunderbirds.  Instead, their accomplishments are ranked in the order of the positive impact they bring to the community.  With 150+ charities under their umbrella and nearly $100 million dollars donated, it’s easy to see why.
“This tournament is showing the world how a sporting event really can make a difference,” said David Steiner, Waste Management president and CEO. “Whether it’s setting a new standard for sustainability or sending more than $7 million to Arizona charities, it’s about much more than great golf.”   Indeed it is, with Waste Management recent announcement solidified their commitment.

For all the big numbers, perhaps the most impressive one is the smallest.  Zero – as in zero waste. In both 2013 and 2014, ZERO tournament waste was sent to a landfill – instead 100 percent was diverted to recycling, composting and waste-to-energy facilities. The tournament’s Zero Waste mission has been validated by two outside organizations, The Council for Responsible Sport and UL Environmental, as well as recognized by Beyond Sport with their “2014 Sport For The Environment” award going to the 2014 tournament.

Green practices, great golf and charitable giving are nothing new for the tournament, but for the 2015 WMPO, the golf course will feature some fresh twists and turns.  The original designer of TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course, Tom Weiskopf, was called on to update the 27-year-old track to be more compatible with today’s style of play on the PGA TOUR.  They resurfaced all the greens; added new white sand to all the bunkers; moved many of the fairway bunkers farther from the tee so they are more in-play for the longer hitters, and in a few cases moved the greens.

On the fourth hole, for example, a new green and bunker complex was designed and relocated 30 yards to the left of the original green site and at a higher elevation.  No. 14 now features a new green and bunker complex shifted to the left and elevated from the original site to become the only “perched” green on the course.

“The time had come to update the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale to provide a more modern and state-of-art tournament course for today’s TOUR players,” said Weiskopf. “These changes will also position the club to continue as the leader in the competitive Scottsdale resort and daily-fee market.” It’ll be interesting to hear comments from the players as they take on the newly designed golf course.  Last year’s champ, Kevin Stadler, is one pro who will likely have an opinion.  As a Scottsdale resident who lives nearby the TPC, Stadler should have plenty of opportunity to play a few afternoon practice rounds before defending his title.  Last year he looked on helplessly at the 72nd green as Bubba Watson lined up a short putt to force a playoff with him.  After the ball slid by the hole, the 2014 Waste Management Phoenix Open Championship was Stadler’s.

“It was a little weird way to win a golf tournament,” Stadler said in a post-round interview.  “I fully expected him to make the putt.”  At age 33, Stadler posted his first win in 239 PGA TOUR starts.  His previous bests were runner-ups at the 2007 Reno-Tahoe Open and the 2009 Wyndham Championship.

“Sure, yeah, it’s pretty amazing,” said Stadler.  “It’s been a long time.  It’s been a long time since I won anything.  I think it was ‘05 or ‘06.  It’s pretty special.”
Although his numbers were a bit off, his final-round 68 was right on the money – as in $1,116,000.  The win also gave him a spot in the Masters alongside his father, Craig.  This marked the first time a father and son have teed it up in the same year.

ASU alum and fan favorite Phil Mickelson enters the 2015 field in search of an unprecedented fourth win at WM Phoenix Open.  He and three others – Gene Littler, Mark Calcavecchia and Arnold Palmer – have three tournament titles under their belts.

Although golf action has always been the main draw with pros like Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, it’s not the only thing going on that week.  In true Waste Management Phoenix Open fashion, when the sun sets on TPC Scottsdale the party heats up at the Coors Light Birds Nest. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 3:30-10 p.m. of tournament week, the Coors Light Birds Nest features new artists every year, and with stars like Kid Rock and Capital Cities headlining this year’s Birds Nest, it’s sure to be a good time. While the music each night may be different, one thing still remains the same – The Coors Light Birds Nest is THE PLACE TO BE in Scottsdale during the Waste Management Phoenix Open!

Many of the partygoers who end up at the Coors Light Birds Nest begin the festivities at the tournament’s famous 16th hole.  It’s the epicenter of a larger tremor created by the more than 550,000 fans that spread out over tournament grounds. Today’s fans may not realize who’s responsible for the past 80 years of professional golf in the Valley of the Sun.  The Thunderbirds and their charitable efforts – made possible through the WM Phoenix Open – continue to serve as an inspiring example of what can be accomplished through collaboration and diligence.