My Experience at the Phoenix Open
By Jack Layman
The Phoenix Open was one of the most exciting events in golf that I was able to go behind the scenes and experience. We started our day off going to the media room. This included the players’ bags! As we went on with our day, we headed to the Thunderbird Center where we found out that they serve 95% of all food on the golf course; they have been doing that for 19 years! Then, we went to the medical center where they told us how they treat peoples headaches and other pains they may have. Right next to that was the police; their job was to keep the players safe. After we watched the open for a while, we went back to the media center and I was able to interview Webb Simpson. While interviewing him, I was the most nervous I have ever been in my life! My palms were so sweaty; they blurred the handwriting on the notepad in my hand! I also got to interview Rickie Fowler. We were in a group of about 15 people and he was at a podium. I asked him to talk about what felt the best in his round and he said he thought it was his driver. That completed day one.
On day two Taylor and I did a mock media Q and A together, which was super fun! After watching the pros on number 9, we came back and interviewed Johnny Miller. He is one of my favorite golfers from the past. I got to ask him what it was like playing with Seve Ballesteros in the 1976 Open. He said that he had an amazing focus and energy about him which attracted many people; he also said they stayed friends for a very long time after that. I got to talk to Mr. Miller after his last interview. He is a very down-to-earth guy and an amazing man. He talked to me like we were best friends, which was great because I was already nervous. Later, Taylor and I got to interview Harold Varner the III. He was a very nice man and let us interview him first out of everybody. I also got to interview Bubba while he stood at a podium with about 13 people around me. I used my one question for my sister. I asked Bubba to say hi to her and he did, very kindly, which was cool. Bubba is my sister’s favorite player. On 16 I met Brandel Chamblee and some other reporters on the Golf Channel. We talked about how many hours of work and research they put into golf. The amount of research they do is amazing! Afterwards, we went to hole 17 to watch some more golf to bring an end to the day. My two days at the Phoenix Open were super fun and it will be an experience I will never forget. Thank you to the First Tee of Phoenix for making this possible.
Phoenix Open Experience
I remember my first time at The Waste Management Open, walking through the expo and observing the hectic atmosphere around me. At the age of eight, I was introduced to the game, and the organization that changed my life forever. The week of The Phoenix Open has always held a special place in my heart. The people’s open as they call it is truly exactly what it sounds like. This year, I was selected to be the 2019 course reporter with The First Tee of Phoenix.
Today I had the opportunity to get the full story of how this amazing tournament is put together every year. The first stop on our list was seeing where the magic happens, in this case in the caddie barn. What used to be a plain cart and caddie center is now transformed to hold many people, clubs, and food alike for the week. As players and caddies come and go to retrieve their clubs for the day, people are hard at work in the media center. Moving from the media center, we made a short walk to the Thunderbird Headquarters or as we like to call it, “the heart and soul” of the tournament. While inside we heard about how much work goes into putting this tournament on. All the questions and concerns that arise throughout the week go through headquarters and about 95% of the food on property goes through them as well. As we said our goodbyes for the day, we met up with the staff at the medical tent. From minor headaches and minor cuts from falls, the 200 volunteers from Mayo Clinic are more than willing to help the players and spectators alike!
As our day progressed, we watched our favorite golfers tee off and watched as more fans came to pack the crowds. After lunch and as players started to come to the clubhouse, we got to interview some of the best and upcoming players on the tour. From Cameron Champ to Matt Kuchar, it was more than exciting to hear what they had to say. One of my main questions was how they stay mentally in check after countless weeks of non-stop tournaments. “The beauty about the game of golf is that every week you start from scratch and have the chance to win a tournament,” was a huge take away from a recent winner Matt Kuchar. After watching the last of the players come in and sign off on our day of Instagram with The First Tee, I could not wait for the next day ahead of us.
Friday morning and the stands at the sixteenth hole are already packed with fans ready to cheer the players on and have fun. The day starts off with going to the media room where the winner of the tournament gets to sit and be interviewed. It was a great fifteen minutes of bloopers and conducting our personal interviews. We did not know that twenty minutes later we would end up in that exact room getting to meet and interview Johnny Miller with experienced journalists and cameramen all around us. “I don’t know what they got going here but it is amazing isn’t it..” said Johnny about The Waste Management. As we all laughed and listened to his stories throughout the years, what felt like five minutes worth of time was actually thirty. How Mr. Miller captivates his crowd without any attempt is a true testament of what we will be missing when he makes his final debut before retiring.
The day was only starting as we walked around the course and watched the players tee off. When we made a loop back to the media area was the same time some players were coming to sign their scorecards for the day. From an interview with Gary Woodland and Harold Varner III, it was amazing to see how much appreciation they have for the game, but also for the people that cheer them on. This year, a fellow Girls Golf member named Amy got to meet and play with Mr. Woodland on the sixteenth hole. “That was the specialist thing I’ve ever done, she was amazing and I have learned a lot from her,” was Gary’s response when asked about his experience meeting and playing with her. After thanking him, my partner and I mustered up the courage to introduce ourselves to Harold. While starting our interview, I was startled and shocked when he asked me if I had met and interviewed him before. After a few seconds of me being “star struck” and saying an overly enthusiastic “yeah” we got through the interview with ease and took away great advice. As we said our goodbyes and congratulated him on his round, we stood underneath the trees as we sorted out our agenda for the day. A few minutes later, I get a tap on my shoulder from Harold’s caddie saying that he wanted me to have his glove that he signed for me.
As we met with our executive director Kevin Terry, we walked to the famous sixteenth hole to the Golf Channel skyboxes. Gasping in awe as we walk through the tents, we stop in front of not one, but three golf channel personalities sitting with their laptops waiting for us. As we talked and got to know them and how they do their job, it was the best insight on what it is like to do their job. Saying thank you and goodbye, we walked down to the Thunderbird skybox where we met and shared our stories with the people around us, and fellow Thunderbird Greg Hoyt. Walking away from the sixteenth hole, stomachs full of the great food the chefs had prepared, we watched the groups tee off on hole seventeen. As group after group came, and more and more people left, the atmosphere never wavered. Well you know what they say, there is nothing like a Friday at The Phoenix Open.