After COVID-19 slowed fundraising, the Thunderbirds were excited for the ’22 Phoenix Open
After COVID-19 slowed fundraising, the Thunderbirds were excited for the ’22 Phoenix Open

After COVID-19 slowed fundraising, the Thunderbirds were excited for the ’22 Phoenix Open

Thunderbird’s charity spent a year preparing for the 2022 WM Phoenix Open. When the event starts, members like Daniel Fox ensure that everyone – from fans to caddies – enjoys the experience. (Photo by Hogan Armstrong/ Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Green is the color most associated with the WM Phoenix Open, commonly referred to as “the greenest show on grass.” It could also refer to the money the Thunderbirds raise for charity.

After hosting the event under a cloud of restrictions due to COVID-19 in 2021, the charity believes it will raise $ 10 million this year, up from $ 3.8 million, said WM Phoenix Opens chairman Michael Golding. The 2022 tournament, which concludes with competition in the final round today, lifted all pandemic restrictions.

“What we do out here year-round is focused on creating an environment where the fan experience improves every year so we can grow our charitable gift every year,” Golding said. “It’s the most exciting part of being out here and being a part of the Thunderbird organization. It’s also fun to design and create a coveted environment.”

The role of a Thunderbird ranges from directing pedestrian traffic to capturing noise from the audience while players are about to hit, to even exciting the audience when the moment is right. They are also preparing for the unexpected. As avid fans at the 16th hole on Saturday celebrated Sam Ryder’s hole-in-one by throwing hundreds of beer cans on the green, the Thunderbirds quickly assembled a cleanup team so the game could continue.

Members of Thunderbirds all wear blue tunics with large belts and silver pendants. (Photo by Dominic Stearn/ Cronkite News)

Ultimately, the Thunderbird’s primary task is to make sure all fans enjoy their experience at TPC Scottsdale, no matter what capacity it’s possible. PGA Tour veteran Bill Haas joked that he often sees the Thunderbirds “right in the middle of everything and having fun with the crowds.”

“Everything that goes on within the property is a Thunderbird closely involved in,” Golding said.

The charity began in 1937, when the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce saw a need for a unique committee as it became more involved in conventions and tourism. Membership is limited to 55 members, and when a Thunderbird turns 45, his status changes from Active to Life Member. Among them are longtime sports director Jerry Colangelo and governor Doug Ducey.

Their work to prepare for the 2022 WM Phoenix Open began on February 8, 2021, the day after the previous Phoenix Open. After dealing with pandemic-related restrictions, the preparation for this tournament required greater and better efforts, the organizers said.

The Thunderbirds have mastered the art of designing and customizing the lively environment at TPC Scottsdale, which has led to “The People’s Open” showcase. The high demand for tickets and exclusive access to club boxes has led to increased prices this year. General admission tickets range from $ 50 to $ 75, depending on the day, with a Skybox of 16 to a cool $ 55,000.

All the money raised goes to charity around the valley.

“Thunderbird’s secret sauce is that we’re all here to improve and compete, and we’re working to improve this event every year so we can generate more money for the community,” Golding said. “Giving back is the most important thing. This golf tournament is our philanthropic machine, but we spend the whole year evaluating the needs of the whole community and spreading those funds.”

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Organizations will reap the benefits of the $ 10 million Thunderbirds expect to raise at the 2022 Phoenix Open. First Tee-Phoenix, a frequent recipient, provides golf access to children who may not be able to afford to play or receive lessons.

“It’s because of the funding and support from Thunderbirds that First Tee-Phoenix came into being in 2003,” said First Tee-Phoenix Programming Director Michael Bergeson. “We are very grateful for all the opportunities given to the youth of the Phoenix Valley through their charitable and hard work.”

The $ 10 million has risen from $ 3.8 million last season, with COVID-19 significantly limiting attendance. Since its inception, the organization has raised more than $ 165 million. Thunderbirds Charities is a 501 (c) (3) organization and received a 100 rating on charitynavigator.org‘s latest review.

With a tournament almost over, the Thunderbirds almost immediately begin preparations for the 2023 Phoenix Open.


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