‘It was a tearjerker’: Charity events, fundraising also big part of WM Phoenix Open

The WM Phoenix Open offers more than “The Greatest Show on Grass” – the golf spectacle raises millions of dollars for Arizona charities. (Photo by Brooklyn Hall/Cronkite News)

SCOTTSDALE – One of the most famous golf events of the year, the WM Phoenix Open is known as “The People’s Open” due to the party-like atmosphere and hole 16, where fans can be heard across the course. However, the amount the event gives back to the local community is also a priority for tournament organizers.

For the fifth time in history, the WM Phoenix Open in partnership with the Thunderbirds – a nonprofit organization formed in 1986 to distribute money raised through the tournament to organizations that assist in improving the quality of life in the Valley – raised over $10 million for the 2022 event. The approximately $10.5 million raised reached hundreds of charities and nonprofit organizations.

Donations are just one way the WM Phoenix Open gives back. The tournament puts on events during the week leading up to the opening round with some of the golfers participating.

One of those events, the R.S. Hoyt Jr. Family Foundation Dream Day Activities, took place earlier this month.

“I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t know the clinic was happening and has been happening for 20 years if I am being honest,” Jon Rahm, former ASU golfer and current No. 3 golfer in the world, said after taking part in a motivational talk and Q&A with kids. “I wish I would have known earlier because doing clinics in tournaments is something I mentioned to the PGA tour that I will do more often because it is really fun for me and it is great to engage with a younger audience.

“I will say it right here, I hope we have a designated event like this every single week and have one of us big players do it.”

The best part of the event for Rahm is it took only an hour to make the day of around 200 kids by simply being there.

Following this event, a Special Olympics Putting Challenge took place with Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley.

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Altruism extends throughout the sport beyond the WM Phoenix Open and PGA. Some golfers make sure to give back year-round with their own foundations and charities. One of them is Patrick Cantlay, who started the Patrick Cantlay Foundation which supports the game of junior golf programs as well as assists and advocates on behalf of first responders.

“I did not participate in any events this week (charity events with the Phoenix Open), but we had the season-ending Patrick Cantlay Foundation series event for the Toyota Tour Cup, which is part of the Southern California SCPGA Junior Golf,” Cantlay said. “We had the finale in December at the club I grew up at, Virginia Country Club, so I was out there for a couple of days and it was a great event. We were really happy to put (it) on and we hope to do that for a number of years.”

Cantlay makes sure to be present and active with participants at his events.

“It has been really cool to get to know the kids at the tournament and clinic,” Cantlay said. “Hearing how appreciative they are to have such an elevated experience, and it is something when I was growing up I would have liked to have seen and played in. That is what I am trying to create with these tournaments, something the kids are excited about when they show up with the closest feel to a tournament as possible.”

The WM Phoenix Open and Thunderbirds Charities make sure to look after active, and reserve veterans, retired U.S. Military personnel, along with U.S. active law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs – all of whom receive free admission into the tournament.

The Birdies for the Brave Patriots Outpost is free for active duty and reserve veterans and retired U.S. military members. Looking over the 18th hole, the hospitality tent is available on Wednesday through Sunday and provides service members with complimentary food and beverages.

The same organization held a special event last Tuesday called Operation Shower, a baby shower for 35 veterans’ wives and military families. The guests were gifted with resources they needed for newborns such as strollers, cribs, diapers and more.

Thomas Olmsted is a rookie member of the Thunderbirds who helps with tickets and banking. He’s also a veteran who served as a Navy Seal for 10 years, where he was stationed in Coronado, Calif.

“Operation (Shower) might have been one of the coolest things I have ever done for a veteran or an active-duty member,” Olmsted said. “I spoke at the event and honestly it was a tearjerker seeing how excited they were to receive all the gifts.”

Once the baby shower is wrapped up, Patriots Outpost opens into a welcome home for all members of current and past military duty with hundreds of veterans enjoying the golf and top-tier hospitality.

“Just seeing how happy the veterans are when they cruise through here makes my day,” Olmsted said. “I was just walking with some of the veterans and they were enjoying a free beer while watching golf and they told me this is incredible and the reality of this event is amazing.”

Bennett Silvyn BEH-nit SIL-vin
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Bennett Silvyn expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in business, marketing and sports management. Silvyn has interned in marketing and social media for the Arizona Sports and Entertainment Commission, as a reporter for Arizona Foothills Magazine, in sponsorships for the Arizona Rattlers and in social and digital media for FC Tucson. Silvyn has also reported for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network and The State Press.

Brooklyn Hall BROOK-lyn hall (she/her)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Brooklyn Hall expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Hall has interned with the Amarillo Sod Poodles and is currently interning with the Arizona Diamondbacks on their DBTV crew.