Local Knowledge: 2011 Waste Management Open

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It might look quiet in this picture, but the par-3 16th hole will be rocking once the Waste Management Open gets under way at TPC Scottsdale.
T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer

Series: Local Knowledge

Published: Thursday, February 03, 2011 | 11:58 a.m.

The biggest party in golf takes place this week at TPC Scottsdale with the playing of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Before things get too crazy, we caught up with PGA Director of Golf Greg Wolf for a little Q&A.

PGA.com: As always, thank you for joining us, Greg. The Waste Management Open is always one of the most anticipated stops on the PGA Tour schedule. It’s just so different from every stereotype associated with golf – quiet, slow, older people following along. Please, tell our readers why those stereotypes don’t apply during the Waste Management Open.

I forget which TOUR Players said this a few years ago, but he said it's a big party with a golf tournament lost in the middle. What other golf tournament kicks you out two hours after they stop playing? Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people here to see the best golfers in the world and those players do deliver. If you want a quiet, slow-paced event, that can be found on some holes on the golf course. But if you want a party atmosphere, this is the place to be.

PGA.com: One of the players in this week’s field is rookie Jhonattan Vegas. He’s had a win and a tie for third in the last two weeks. How do you explain a rookie playing so well right out of the gate?

All of the rookies have talent and there are plenty of talented players on the Nationwide Tour as well. Vegas is special. I watched him hitting balls the other day and there is something about him that just clicks. You add in the early success, and now he has the confidence to match his game.

PGA.com: While the Waste Management Open is most well-known for its party scene on the par-3 16th hole, it’s also known for its association with the Thunderbirds. For our readers who might not know, could you please tell them about the Thunderbirds?

Below is the description on the WMPO website about the Thunderbirds. Basically they are a great bunch of guys who donate their time to raise a lot of money for charity through various types of events.

Local Knowledge: Waste Management Open

Before the start of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, we caught up with PGA Director of Golf at TPC Scottsdale, Greg Wolf.

Who are The Thunderbirds?

The Thunderbirds began in 1937, when the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce expanded its role as a convention and tourism bureau. There was a need for a special events committee to venture into new fields. Five young executives were selected to lead the committee. The Phoenix Chamber of Commerce suggested that the committee become an “official” group and expand its membership. Each of the five then selected ten additional members to make up a committee of 55. The Thunderbird name was chosen because the emblem of the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce was, and still is, a Thunderbird derived from American Indian symbols. One of the early inductees was Bob Goldwater, an avid golfer. Goldwater thought it would be a great idea to sponsor a golf tournament. That first year, Goldwater sold the tickets, recruited volunteers and set up the golf course at the Phoenix Country Club. The Phoenix Open caught on, and in 69 years, has developed into one of the leading stops on the PGA TOUR. Goldwater was Tournament Chairman from 1934 through 1951 and is affectionately called the “Father of The Phoenix Open.” Active Thunderbird membership is limited to 55 members. Each has demonstrated a sincere interest in sports and a dedication to community affairs. All Thunderbird activities and events are the prime responsibility of these Active Thunderbirds and are under the watchful eye of the Big Chief and Thunderbird Council. When a Thunderbird reaches the age of 45, their status changes from Active to that of Life Member. Although they are relieved of continuous duties, it is not unusual to see a Life Thunderbird lending a helping hand at The Waste Management Phoenix Open or one of the many other Thunderbird-sponsored events. To date, there are over 300 members comprising The Thunderbirds organization.

PGA.com: Make us jealous for a second here. A majority of the country is covered in snow with more on the way. What’s the forecast looking like in Phoenix/Scottsdale this week?

I'm not sure many people are jealous of our weather right now. We don't have snow, but the frozen tundra of TPC Scottsdale was closed on Wednesday. Thursday is not much warmer, but the wind is down and the sun is out. The weekend should be back to normal, high 60's/low 70's, not bad golfing weather in early February.

PGA.com: Yeah, I guess there isn't much to be jealous about there. Final question, Greg. What do you most look forward to during tournament week?

Watching the best golfers in the world during the day and then going home to my wife, Stephanie, and daughter, Ella, at night.