SCOTTSDALE – Top Gun actor Glen Powell danced on the driving range. Retired Alabama football coach Nick Saban evaded the media. It was just another day of the unexpected at the WM Phoenix Open Annexus Pro-Am.
Wednesday’s event was canceled early in the afternoon when heavy rain, which later turned to hail, soaked the course at TPC Scottsdale. But the wet conditions didn’t keep fans from filling the stands at the 16th hole or standing in line to snag autographs from a celebrity lineup that included retired baseball stars (Alex Rodriguez and Adrián Beltré), current Arizona Diamondbacks players (Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and manager Torey Lovullo) and musicians (country star Jake Owens).
“This is my first Waste Management Open. I’m unbelievably excited,” Powell said. “I’m not a good enough golfer to take this thing seriously so I’m just planning on having a good time today.”
Many fans came to see Saban, who recently stepped down after 17 seasons at Alabama, where he led the Crimson Tide to seven national championships. Saban did not speak with the media Wednesday, but he did take time to sign autographs, including one from a fan wearing a Trevor Lawrence Clemson jersey. Nearby, there was a chorus of “Roll Tide” cheers.
Other sounds of the tournament included music at the famed 16th hole, where the disc jockey met the moment of inclement weather by playing Rihanna’s “Umbrella” as the rain came down.
The WM Phoenix Open, best known for its par-3, 16th hole, is the latest stop on the PGA Tour schedule following last weekend at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
The anticipated event pairs professional golfers with amateur golfers in competition with other groups for prize money while fans cheer and follow celebrities, many of whom know their way around the links.
Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, country music star Michael Hardy and former NFL standouts Emmitt Smith and Larry Fitzgerald were among the celebrities to compete.
“Being able to be back out here, it’s such a great event for the community,” Phelps said. “I’m a golf nut so being able to watch some of these pros up close is special for me.”
The Phoenix Open, organized by the Thunderbirds, dates back to 1937. Bob Goldwater, one of the early inductees and also a golfer, had the idea to sponsor a golf tournament.
Almost 90 years later, the tournament has become one of the most popular stops on the PGA Tour. The Thunderbirds have raised more than $190 million in tournament history, with the money spread throughout charities within the community.
“Of course what this does for the community, what the Thunderbirds are able to raise to be able to give back to the community, it’s so special and so incredible,” Phelps said.
Beltrè, participating in his first Phoenix Open, showed off a different kind of swing out on the range from his 21 seasons in the majors.
“It’s great. This is my first time doing this,” Beltrè said. “You know what, it’s a big difference between pro and us (amateurs), but I’m looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to learning something from those guys.”
Max Homa was enjoying the scene Wednesday and said he has never attended the Phoenix Open as a fan.
“I will say that the year I retire you will find me here,” Homa said. “I will be having a great time.”
And where will he sit?
“That’s a really good question. Wherever the liquid takes me, I think.”