JIM SHARPE

Thunderbirds need to keep WM Phoenix Open from getting a worse name

Feb 12, 2024, 2:00 PM

Through the years, the Valley’s premier golf tournament has gone through some changes — but based on what we saw this past week, the WM Phoenix Open needs to go through even more.

The tournament, which has been put on for charity by the civic organization known as the Thunderbirds since the 1930s, went from being simply called “The Phoenix Open” to adding a title sponsor in the 2000s.

In 2010, it became “The Waste Management Phoenix Open” (which, because of all its attendant partying, gained the nickname “The Wasted Phoenix Open”). 

Nowadays, it’s the “WM Phoenix Open.” 

But since there seems to be even more wasted spectators, and because of the weather the tournament faced this year, it might be time to give it a new nickname: “The WTF Phoenix Open.”

This year, as the rain poured down on the course, causing several breaks in play, spectators didn’t take a break from pouring alcohol down their throats … and the combo led to spectators pouring down the course’s grassy hills and out of their seats in the 16th hole’s stadium.

And mouthy spectators — filled with liquid courage — got under the skin of golfers.

Some attendees treated the golfers worse than Travis Kelce treated his head coach Andy Reid — and slammed beers faster than Kelce’s girlfriend, Taylor Swift — did at the Super Bowl.

That led to two big things happening on Saturday: The entry gates to TPC Scottsdale were closed (even to sober people who had purchased advanced tickets), and alcohol sales were put on pause.

Dan Bickley, with Arizona Sports, called it the “the weirdest, wettest and wildest tournament ever” and told Arizona’s Morning News that spectators were especially obnoxious this year because, “they felt compelled to beat the weather — to not let the weather stop them from doing what they do, which is get inebriated and scream at golfers and heckle golfers. It’s what they do.” 

If that’s what you do, please don’t do what that local casino tells you to do — and “do you.”

So, what needs to change?

Well, the Thunderbirds can’t control the … uh … thunder (and rain), but they can control alcohol sales — and doing so could lead to fewer out-of-control spectators.

However, a system that limits the number of drinks that can be purchased per spectator could severely limit the charity money the Thunderbirds make for needy people (more than $150 million over the years).

So, how about raising drink prices? That won’t stop everybody who’s determined to get trashed — but it could slow down the group most likely to get wasted: Gen-Zers. 

Although, once some youngsters get their first drink in ’em, they can easily forget how little they have in the bank, and keep on buying — which can lead to them forgetting where they are.   

But maybe that’ll keep them from drinking so much that they forget who they are.

Jim Sharpe

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Thunderbirds need to keep WM Phoenix Open from getting a worse name