Quiet on 16: Marshals attempt to bring order to golf’s craziest hole

SCOTTSDALE – Ordering silence at the 16th hole of the Waste Management Phoenix Open seems pointless. Even laughable.

Yet every year, marshals stand stoically in their green jackets and wide-brimmed straw hats. They silently hold up their white cardboard signs with vertical green lettering. It signals a simple but almost unachievable demand given the venue.

“Quiet.”

Mary Anderson, an optometrist by day, has been a marshal at the Phoenix Open for 24 years and manned the 16th hole for 15. Anderson stood on the hill and witnessed Tiger Woods hitting his hole-in-one in 1997.

“Beer is great for your hair,” she said. “I was afraid I was going to get fired because people were throwing the beer cans, but then the Thunderbirds laughed and said don’t worry about your job.”

She also once walked with Woods, keeping fans restrained as he walked between the holes. She noted how quiet he was throughout his round. Now she holds a coveted “quiet” sign.

A friend of hers once offered her two beers for a piece of the cardboard. She took the bribe, but the buyer didn’t get far. Security took the sign at the exit.

“People ask you if they can buy it from you and they will usually offer up to $100,” Anderson said. “Our instructions are to say no.”

The gallery itself is organized chaos. The bleacher creatures have sheets of paper with different chants aimed at golfers based on their personal life. Anderson recalled they knew former PGA Tour pro Tom Lehman’s entire high school fight song when he played in the tournament.

Some golfers and crowd members might see it as rude or in poor taste, but retired international salesman Pat Flynn has been a marshal on the 16th hole for six years and sees it differently.

“The 16th hole has the best golf etiquette in the world because they know everything about the golfers,” Flynn said. “They’ll sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them, they’ll sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to their wives but as soon as they address the ball, it’s dead silence.”

The 16th is part cocktail soiree, part raucous college party. Leah Lewandowski has been a marshal at the 16th for four years. Last year she was in front of the general seating area around the green when fans started chucking beers onto the course after Francesco Molinari hit a hole-in-one.

“It was pretty messy with a lot to clean and I smelled like beer,” she said.

So how does one get into the circle of marshals on 16? Easier said than done. People can sign up to marshal on the tournament’s website, but it takes some backroom dealing to work the famous hole.

This year will be Sandy Blair’s first year marshaling on 16. Her normal job is working in insurance for Wells Fargo.

“I’ve been volunteering here for a few years and I have a friend who has been marshaling this hole for several years and he got me in,” she said, showcasing all the autographs on her ‘quiet’ sign from Wednesday’s pro-am.

The same happened to Armando Hernandez, who is a marshal for the first time since retiring from a 35-year career with the Glendale Fire Department. Hernandez brought his Larry Fitzgerald jersey and got it autographed by the Cardinals wide receiver.

“It’s going to be crazy on Friday and Saturday,” he said.

Added Blair: “I’m just looking forward to the whole experience. This is a fantastic hole. If you’re going to marshal a hole, this is the one to do.”