My Experience as a Junior Course Reporter at The Waste Management Phoenix Open
By Jack Breidenbach, The First Tee of Phoenix
Day One and Two – Thursday February 2 & Friday February 3, 2017
It was a cool, crisp morning at the TPC Scottsdale. No players on the course, it was barren and empty. Hard at work behind the scenes, people were busy early setting up the spectacle known as the Phoenix Open.
We first met Ted Cash, the mastermind behind turning the TPC Scottsdale cart barn into a media room welcoming golf reporters from around the world. His team starts a week early creating temporary walls that divide the room into sections. The transformation definitely makes a great workplace for reporters during the week.
We next spoke with Wade Stettner, head meteorologist for the PGA Tour. He told us Phoenix is a relatively easy place to predict weather. No fog, little winds, nothing like coastal courses. The only delay during the Phoenix Open experience is the usual frost delay. The Tour’s and Stettner’s main concern for most tournaments is lightning. “Play will be stopped if lightning is within 6 miles – no exceptions.”
Next we visited with Brad Williams, General Manager of the TPC. Brad told us “Our main focus is creating the best experience for our fans. The process of setting up the legendary 16th hole begins in October. The maintenance staff is working around the clock keeping the course in pristine condition.”
Our next stop was with the people from ShotLink, the high-tech tracking system used by the PGA Tour to bring us stats on every tour player’s game. Using a grid system and GPS technology, Shotlink is able to track distances for every player.
We then found ourselves on a journey into the jungle that is the 16th hole. We met the genius behind the Golf Channel’s production, Jeremy Friedman. Jeremy brought us into the box where Tom Lehman, Brandall Chamblee and Steve Sands were live on Golf Central’s Pre-Game show. Brandall stopped to greet us after the show. Later, we went over to the 18th tower and, thanks to Mr. Friedman, met Rich Lerner and David Duval, the announcers for the action out on the course.
We then took a brief detour to visit our friends at CBS Sports. Joel, a producer with CBS, gave us a tour of their four trailers, each responsible for performing different jobs. We watched the audio and video crews in the first trailer. We then met their graphic design team who creates the sleek and creative scoreboard at commercial breaks. Finally we watched the music crew in their trailer as they were in the midst of creating a montage of past Phoenix Opens.
Though we met many people doing different behind the scenes jobs, everyone is here for the same reason: the players. We caught up with a few hometown heroes, like Sun Devil graduates Chez Reavie and Phil Mickelson. “It’s always great to see people you grew up with in the crowd cheering you on,” Reavie told me in our conversation. As for Mickelson, a seasoned veteran and three-time champion at the open, he embraces the crowd. He told me, “there is nothing quite like it on tour. It is definitely an event on the calendar that I look forward to.” We also caught up with Matt Kuchar, who doesn’t focus on his competition. “I am not worried about how the leaders are playing, you can only play your game.” The Georgia native loves his Atlanta Falcons, and likes their chances on Sunday. “I am confident we can get the win.” With two days in the books, and two days remaining, it should be an interesting finish. Expect fireworks.
My Experience as a Course Reporter at
The Waste Management Phoenix Open
By, Mika Miyata, The First Tee of Phoenix
Day One – Thursday February 2, 2017
The Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO) is something I look forward to each year, and so far, the 2017 experience has been the best one yet. I have been given the amazing opportunity of being invited as a First Tee course reporter (as one of two, the second being Jack) at the greenest show on grass. Today’s weather provided a prime day to not only watch golf but to see all the behind the scenes work that involves running a tournament of this magnitude.
The day started with us getting a tour of the media center and learning about how interviews are conducted. We talked to Ted Cash, who showed us around the interview room. Watching golf on TV gives you the perception that the interview room is a giant conference room that holds numerous people, but at the WMPO it is quite opposite; it is merely just a small area of the cart barn with a backdrop and few rows of chairs. I found this quite interesting, due to the fact that I, along with many other people, have never known this before.
Afterward, we spoke with Leslie Grabeman from ShotLink (a stat system used by the PGA), Wade Stettner, he is a tournament meteorologist who monitors the weather and determines if it’s fit for play, and Officer Patterson from the Scottsdale Police Department who surveys the entire course with his canine for bomb detection. We also had the opportunity to talk to Brad Williams, the General Manager of TPC Scottsdale. He gave us major insights on how the WMPO operates and functions. He even told us that they started the construction of the grandstands in last October, and they are already talking about tournament planning for 2018. I mean that’s crazy, this year’s tournament has barely begun!
The coolest part of my day was going to the Golf Channel set on the 16th green and getting to talk to Jeremy Friedman. It was crazy trying to talk to him in the midst of the 16-hole madness, the crowd was cheering so loud that we could barely hear! But through all the chaos, he told us behind the scenes information about the show Golf Central. Mr. Friedman also told us information regarding the process it takes to produce the show and setting everything up. He also told us that his favorite part of the job was getting to travel to all the different tournament locations. It was really cool to watch Brandel Chamblee, Steve Sands, and Tom Lehman record their segment and turn around to see the show being broadcasted live.
Today’s all-access, behind the scenes experience, is one I will remember for my entire life. Thank you to the First Tee of Phoenix for this amazing experience.
Day Two – Friday February 3, 2017
This morning we need to be at WPMO early, Jack and I were going to be interviewed by Chanel 3. As I was walking up to the media center I could see that there were already more people there than the day before. You could also hear the loud cheers from the 16th green, and it was only 7:30 am! I thought to myself, it was going to be another fantastic day at the WMPO.
It felt surreal to be standing on the 18th skybox talking to April Warnecke of Chanel 3 about yesterday’s experiences (on live TV!). It felt like the interview took a long time, but it really was only about a couple minutes.
Throughout the day, we flashed our media badges visiting various production trailers. We met Steve from PGA Tour Live who works with film production; matching the audio to what we see on TV. We also met Joel who gave us a tour of the CBS Sports trailers. It was very interesting to learn about the production, mixing, audio, and visual process. There’s so much involved in airing a golf tournament.
Later that morning we bumped into Jeremy Friedman again who took us up to the 18th hole NBC production tower. While up in the tower David Duvall and Rich Lerner was recording their segment, Live from with a Birdseye View of the 18th green. I really enjoyed meeting Mr. Duvall and Mr. Lerner and getting to snap a quick picture! The views of the 18th green was of course, AMAZING!
Afterward, we headed back to the media center to catch the players coming in. Jack and I, along with several professional reporters were trying to get interviews with them. Some of the players rushed through, but Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar were kind enough to answer our questions. I was really happy that we got to talk to the players, especially the ones who are well known, as it was already time to turn in our press badges.
This was my first time being a junior course reporter, it’s an experience I will never forget. I am so appreciative and thankful to everyone who took time out of their busy day in order to show us around and answer questions, especially Coach Jeff Pound of the First Tee, for being with us for the past two days.